Congratulations are in order to United States District Judge Richard Voorhees of North Carolina for the judiciousness of his decision in the case of Bernard von NotHaus. We weren’t personally present at the courthouse at Statesville, where von NotHaus had been ordered to appear Tuesday for sentencing on his conviction of uttering — introducing into circulation — his Liberty Dollars. But we were on tenterhooks, because von NotHaus, 70, was looking at the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.
In the three and a half years since the jury reached its decision, Judge Voorhees allowed constitutional and procedural objections to be heard but in the end supported the jury. The government on Tuesday asked for a prison sentence of at least 14 years and as much as 17 ½ years. The government was also seeking forfeiture of some 16,000 pounds of Liberty Dollar coins and specie, which in 2011 it had valued at nearly $7 million.
Then spake the judge, sentencing von NotHaus to but six months of home detention, to run concurrently with three years of probation. He departed from non-binding guidelines because, he suggested, von NotHaus had been motivated not by criminal intent but by an intention to make a philosophical point. That is what these columns have been reporting for more than four years, and, while the Sun’s coverage played no part in the case, we are glad to discover that the judge is of a similar, if not identical, mind.
Von NotHaus is no doubt relieved that he doesn’t have to go to jail, but he has put out no statement. Our guess is that it is sinking in on him that he has been marked now as a felon, and his own dream of a parallel form of money, composed of constitutional specie, is gone. There may yet be surprises, but the sagacity of Judge Voorhees’s handling of this case lies in, among other elements, the fact that he has left no great incentive for either side to make an appeal.