The Bernard von NotHaus counterfeiting trial is expected to wrap up today, almost a month ahead of the April 15 date that had been anticipated for its conclusion.
His attorney, Randolph Marshall Lee, said late Wednesday that since the federal government presented its case in a day and a half last week, he and von NotHaus decided against calling dozens of witnesses and extending the trial into April.
By the time arguments are finished March 17, fewer than 10 witnesses will have testified — a mere fraction of the 80 or more that had been expected in Von NotHaus’ defense. Four are expected to take the stand today, followed by closing arguments on both sides.
On Wednesday, March 16, von NotHaus was cross-examined by government attorneys for less than an hour following his nearly two days of testimony.
At issue is his creation and marketing of the Liberty Dollar, which are silver pieces and “warehouse receipts” backed by silver. Von NotHaus’ firm, NORFED, manufactured Liberty Dollars, then hired regional currency officers to circulate them, von NotHaus said.
The RCOs attended training sessions at the Liberty Dollar University, which was set up for a few days in various U.S. cities. Each RCO was given his or her own territory. The RCOs bought the “warehouse receipts” and sold them to merchants, who could give them as change to customers — but never without asking, von NotHaus said.
He said buyers could exchange the Liberty Dollar for U.S. currency if they later chose to.
Von NotHaus said NORFED hired an auditor to audit the firm for three consecutive years. The auditor found no problems. He stressed that many experts, including economist Dr. Judy Shelton, “bolstered” his efforts by writing a book urging people to develop their own currency due to the weaknesses of the Federal Reserve system.
Von NotHaus said he got “no” personal profit from the Liberty Dollar. Instead, in 2006, he received a stern warning letter from the U.S. Mint, but the NORFED attorney said he was doing nothing illegal, so he continued the business until the FBI raided the company’s Evansville, Ind., offices in November 2007.
The government filed charges against von NotHaus and several of his employees in 2009. The trial for the others is scheduled to begin in May.
Testifying Wednesday afternoon were two NORFED regional currency officers — Vernon Robinson of Forsythe County, N.C., and Henry Lane of Greensboro, N.C. They talked about their interest in the Liberty Dollar and the warm reception it got as they marketed and sold it.
Robinson said he learned of the Liberty Dollar at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2004, where von NotHaus had a booth promoting the Liberty Dollar. He met von NotHaus, took one of his books and “exchanged my Federal Reserve notes for silver.”
He added, “I wanted to get involved. The Federal Reserve system has a lower value of money. We need to return to currency backed by silver and gold.”
He told the jury that bubble gum, for example, used to cost a penny but now is sold in machines for 25 cents “because the value of a dollar has fallen. The current system is broken.”
Lane said that a Wal-Mart check-out clerk was so interested in the Liberty Dollar that she went outside the store and purchased 300 of them. He also said his local police chief and sheriff knew he was selling it and had no problems with that fact.
He said he made little money because he plowed any profit back into the business.
Earlier in the day, U.S. government attorney Jo Rose challenged von NotHaus on the design of the Liberty Dollar. She noted that it shared three of four features on U.S. coins: the word “Liberty,” the Statue of Liberty head facing left, and the motto “Trust in God,” which she said is nearly identical to “In God We Trust” on U.S. coins
She also said the Liberty Dollar is almost the same size as U.S. coins, but, as he did throughout most of the cross-examination, Von NotHaus disagreed.
He said, simply, “It’s different.”
He had said earlier that he closed the business in 2008 and is now retired, living on Social Security. ■