Free State heroine accepts opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge

LACONIA — Self-proclaimed anarchist Amanda "Billyrock" Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of disobeying a police officer in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday afternoon.

Johnson, who was accompanied by about 15 Free State members, was facing three charges relating to her actions of December 14, 2013 — resisting arrest, disobeying a Laconia police officer, and having an open container of alcohol in her vehicle.

As part of a negotiated plea, Laconia Prosecutor Jim Sawyer dropped the charges of resisting arrest and the open container violation and Johnson pleaded guilty to disobeying an officer. She was fined $124.

As part of the court stipulation, Sawyer agreed not to go forward with three additional pending charges against Johnson that were related to her arrest that night, including the possibility she provided false information to authorities after her arrest.

Still in her 20s, Johnson has built a considerable libertarian following through an Internet blog — where she identified herself as "Billyrock" — and a number of political speeches that are posted on YouTube. Originally from Utah, she moved to New Zealand for awhile because she heard that police there do not carry guns. More recently she moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project and is believed to be living in the Manchester area.

The day after Johnson was arrested the case went viral — with many of her Free State supporters around the country calling the police and Belknap County Corrections officials demanding to know why she had been "kidnapped" and "held in chains".

According to police, Johnson jumped the gun on a traffic light and was stopped by a patrol officer. Through a video that was taken by one of Johnson's passengers and posted by Johnson and her supporters on the Internet, Johnson gave police some identification but declined to cooperate further with police.

A police supervisor was called and at some point Johnson was removed from the car and taken to Belknap County House of Corrections where she initially refused the services of a bail commissioner. She spent the night in jail and was released the next day when her attorney and a bail commissioner arrived.

Originally, charges against her included driving while intoxicated and unlawful possession of drugs. In her Weblog, Johnson said the drugs were prescribed to her by a physician and she was not intoxicated and those two charges were not pursued.

Two of Johnson's supporters brought video cameras to court yesterday to record what they thought was going to be a trial.

After behind the scenes negotiations with Johnson, Sawyer, and Johnson's attorney, Seth Hipple, Johnson came back into the court room and gathered her followers in a huddle, addressing them in a quiet voice.

Once she finished talking many of them left, some of them grumbling in the hall that they were disappointed she was not going forward with the trial.

Johnson could also be seen counting out cash (not bitcoin) to be used to pay her fine.

Twice the usual number of security guards were on duty in the court house yesterday.

While Johnson was very respectful of the court and its proceedings, her supporters refused to rise when Judge Jim Carroll entered the court room. Both the judge and the court security officers chose to ignore the breach of protocol.

In an unrelated case, one man who was facing speeding charges has his case dismissed because the State Police didn't come to the trial, prompting Johnson's supporters to applaud — another breach of protocol ignored by Carroll and court security.

After the hearing, Johnson declined to comment.

Since that time, she has posted to her Facebook, "Trial was no-go. Surprise allegation at the last minute changed the situation. Plea to "disobeying" taken. No jail time."

Johnson said she may comment further on her blog or Facebook page.

CUTLINE: Amanda "Billyrock" Johnson confers with her supporters yesterday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday afternoon. Johnson pleaded guilty of one count of disobeying a police officer.