Common Law meeting at Bozeman Library

Mike Greener/Chronicle

Ernie Wayne Tertelgte of Manhattan, center, and a small group of Gallatin County residents gathered at the Bozeman Public Library Wednesday evening to hear speakers address the idea of returning to colonial times "Common Law". Tertelgte has gained notoriety on the internet as "The Living Natural Man".

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About 50 people turned out Wednesday night for a meeting at the Bozeman Public Library to talk about forming a grand jury they believe would have the authority to present cases to the county sheriff.

It was the second meeting held in the past week in Bozeman by two different groups proposing to form citizen grand juries, which authorities say would run counter to Montana law.

According for information presented by Wednesday’s group, they would like to see a jury randomly chosen from people in a county. Then, that jury would decide whether a person should be charged with a crime. That information would then be presented to the county sheriff to enforce.

Those who spoke Wednesday voiced concern over what they believe is a corrupt government. Dissatisfied with how justice is being carried out, they believe they have a better way.

“We the people were supposed to be the judiciary. We gave it up. We went to sleep,” said Steve McNeil, who headed up the meeting. “What we have today is a system based on money. You are the sheep, and they’re here to shear you.”

“My nation is going down the tubes and that’s because of the Republicans and that’s because of the Democrats,” said Clint Cain of Bozeman. “There’s only one way to change it: We have to get the money out of it to start with. If that doesn’t work, we’ve got to use force.”

While most of those who spoke Wednesday night agreed with the concept, ironing out the details of how to accomplish their goal was not as easy. Some spoke of using force to regain what they said are their constitutional rights. Others proposed putting signs in yards and soliciting as many supporters as possible. A third said nothing would happen unless the citizens had a “well-armed militia” behind them.

Among those in attendance was Ernie Wayne terTelgte, the Manhattan man who gained Internet popularity last year when his courtroom outburst in which he said he had the right to forage for food because he is the “living man” went viral. TerTelgte was accused of fishing without a license.

At Wednesday’s meeting he voiced support of the formation of the grand jury.

McNeil said the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to get people together to discuss the issue.

“Let’s start with Gallatin County,” he said. “When you go into court, you’re considered a dead animal. That is the truth. That is exactly how it works. The judge takes over control of your trust and you’re guilty.”

Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert said in an earlier interview that he has serious doubts about the legality of the idea. In Montana, only a district judge has the right to summon or draw a grand jury, he said. He also said he could not recall the last time that happened in Montana.

Erin Schattauer can be reached at 582–2628 or She’s on Twitter @erinschattauer.

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