A relaxed Bernard von NotHaus took the stand Monday afternoon hoping to convince a 12-member federal jury that he’s not guilty.
He is on trial for allegedly producing counterfeit coins.
His trial entered its second week Monday in the federal courthouse in Statesville, N.C. The first week was spent choosing a jury and hearing the prosecution’s side of the case. That ended the morning of March 10.
This week, the defensive began, and von NotHaus spent the afternoon of March 14 explaining that he wanted to create currency that would be safe from inflation.
Von NotHaus, cool and relaxed during testimony, said he spent 25 years as a mint master for the private Royal Hawaiian Mint, which made commemoratives for places such as Pearl Harbor.
In a two-week period in 1974, von NotHaus wrote a book, To No Value, “as an outgrowth of my epiphany.” It put economic and political systems into monetary terms, he said. He dedicated the book to Aldous Huxley “and not to the nightmares of Adolf Hitler.”
He added, “It changed my life.”
“I’m writing about the danger of the government and its impact on our lives,” he said in court. “I’m concerned about hyper-inflation like what produced Adolf Hitler.”
He noted that after Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president in 1933, “he barred Americans from owning gold and silver.” Von NotHaus said he wants to change that.
His Liberty Dollar, minted in Idaho and backed by silver, is a protection against inflation, he said.
It’s what landed him in court, accused of creating counterfeit coins, but von NotHaus said the U.S. government is “counterfeiting” its production of coins because “they’re not backed up by anything.”
When the government inflates its paper currency, it loses value “like watering down good whiskey,” von NotHaus said.
“Where does money get value?” von NotHaus asked. “Out of the air!” he smiled, his hand rising into the air. “We have a moral money dilemma.”
He said he first had decided to create a “value-based” local currency, but a “certain visitor convinced me to go national with it.”
Von NotHaus also said that as he spent years “working, reading, researching and developing my model,” he realized, in 1995, that “I was being left in the dust. I had to get moving. With all due candor, I know that’s a lot to ask from a guy from Hawaii, but change has to start somewhere.”
Von NotHaus noted that scrip, popular in some parts of the country, “is still based on dollars. I wanted to design currency that functions with metals, not U.S. dollars.”
He said, “We’re all still looking for the ideal currency.”
He said he unveiled his American Liberty Currency warehouse receipts on Oct. 1, 1998, in three values — $1, $5 and $10. He said he also founded the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act, or NORFED. NORFED advocates for the repeal of the Federal Reserve Bank Act and the Income Tax Act, both of 1913.
He told investors that the Liberty Dollar would bring discipline to the U.S. financial system.
He said his dollars were printed and stored at Sunshine Minting in Idaho, all backed by silver: “We had to have the silver on hand before printing the certificates,” he said.
Monday morning, von NotHaus’ attorney Marion Edwyn Harrison told the court that von Nothaus “never represented Liberty Dollar as being legal tender or lawful currency.”
“Dealing with Bernard was easy in the sense that he followed my advice, and perhaps over-extended it,” he said. “He was always very cautious. He wanted legal advice before he did anything.”
Harrison said he did not seek advice or an opinion from the federal government as the Liberty Dollar was being created because he saw nothing in the process that required him to do so.
The trial resumed at 9:30 a.m. today. ■