‘Vicious Cycle’

The Man Who Wants to Tax Porn Thinks His Past Assault Case Is ‘Fake News’

Chris Sevier, who wants to put a porn filter on every internet-connected device, jokingly calls himself ‘the mentally ill stalker who wants to marry his computer’—and has a warrant out for his arrest.

04.11.17 5:15 AM ET

Conservative lawmakers in over a dozen states are pushing a bill that would force consumers to pay a ransom to access pornography.

The Human Trafficking Prevention Act, if passed, would apply a pornography filter to any device, from laptops to cellphones to routers, that connects to the internet—and would levy a $20 tax to remove it from each one. The bill mandates all manufacturers of internet-connected devices maintain separate, 24-7 call centers to make sure obscene material is appropriately labeled.

The American Civil Liberties Union is calling the legislation a violation of the First Amendment, while critics at the Electronic Frontier Foundation argue that the bill would help “kill innovation” and present potentially insurmountable barriers to entry for both consumers and small businesses that use the internet.

And the only thing more bizarre than the Human Trafficking Prevention Act itself might be the man behind it.

Chris Sevier, 40, who sometimes goes by Mark Sevier in court and Chris Severe in communications with state legislators, has a contentious and often intentionally provocative relationship with the American court system that is news to at least some of the bill’s co-sponsors. He once famously tried to legally marry his computer to protest same-sex marriage, and was charged with stalking and harassing both country star John Rich and a 17-year-old girl.

Sevier has helped push and draft the bill in 13 states and says he’s trying to introduce it at the federal level during meetings in Washington, D.C., next week. In an interview with The Daily Beast, he readily acknowledged each case in his personal history, and sometimes jokingly referred to himself as “the mentally ill stalker who wants to marry his computer,” in reference to the national news coverage his exploits often invite.

The Daily Beast has also learned that Sevier has a warrant out for his arrest in Tennessee for failure to appear at criminal contempt proceedings. Sevier had failed to pay child support and violated a restraining order by communicating with his former wife. The restraining order stems from Sevier’s 2011 arrest and conviction for assaulting his father-in-law during a fight over a visitation rights of his then-7-month-old son, whom Sevier tried to take during a supervised visit. Sevier’s baby was also injured in the altercation and taken to the ER.

Sevier said he hadn’t heard of the warrant, denied facing any penalty for the assault, and said his legal woes were because he was “subject to a fake prosecutorial campaign” in Tennessee and Texas, waged in part due to his Christian faith.

It’s not the only time Sevier, an EDM musician who trained as a lawyer, shared memories of his past with The Daily Beast that conflict with firsthand accounts and paperwork that prove otherwise.

Sevier claims that the Human Trafficking Prevention Act was hatched in part due to the horrors he saw as a volunteer in Asian countries, where he was “physically fighting human trafficking” as a rescue worker with an organization called Orphan Secure. He said the organization is “based out of Texas near the border” and does “extractions [of child sex slaves] in Malaysia and Cambodia.”

“They’re actually physically rescuing people. It’s not as rogue sounding as I’m making it out to be. Every scenario was different. We were working with the governments of their countries,” he said. “In these places, you can engage in the right of self-defense. You have a transferred right of self-defense.”

He said the often fruitless missions led him to try to create legislation back home.

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“Traffickers would leave. They’d get tipped off about a raid. They’d let the girl be taken, and the traffickers—they would just go and get a new girl,” he said.

The president of Orphan Secure, Ronaldo Lopez, told The Daily Beast that Sevier never went on any missions with the organization.

“Never. No, no, we never took him,” said Lopez.

Lopez said that Sevier’s time with the group was “short-lived” and amounted to a few broken promises.

“He offered Orphan Secure some fundraising help,” said Lopez. “It was probably a matter of weeks. He said he was going to do some stuff, and he didn’t, so the contact just broke off. We didn’t stay in contact. If it lasted more than a month, I would be surprised. He never did any work with us.”

When asked about Lopez’s denial, Sevier told a reporter that Orphan Secure was only one of a number of groups with whom he had worked to rescue human trafficking victims, but declined to provide any further contacts who might verify those claims.

Despite repeatedly claiming he can legally practice law in two states, official records suggest Sevier is not licensed to practice law anywhere. According to documents provided by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility, a petition against him for ethical violations was pending in 2011 when the court temporarily inactivated his license based on a mental disability. When pressed on which two states he believes he can legally practice law, he declined to answer.

According to military records, Sevier joined the Tennessee National Guard in 2002. He shipped out with his unit to Iraq, working as a staff judge advocate in February 2010. Though he was slated to remain in Iraq for one year, Sevier was home by March, 10 months earlier than the mission called for. Military records quoted in court filings from Tennessee’s board of professional responsibility reported his release was due to a finding of mental illness, but Sevier claims it was a reprisal for whistleblowing. (He claims he was going to report one of his supervisors for sexual misconduct and they locked him up in Germany before sending him home against his will.) The Tennessee National Guard was unable to comment on Sevier’s records but confirmed he had been honorably discharged in June 2011.

In an official inquiry, Tennessee’s board of professional responsibility found that Sevier had lied to the court and the media about a case’s opposing counsel being under criminal investigation. The board also uncovered “disciplinary misconduct” by Sevier in that case. Further, the board wrote that Sevier’s pleadings, including one in which he compared country music star John Rich to Adolf Hitler, demonstrated “a lack of legal proficiency, competency, and professionalism.”

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The board’s petition also noted an event in 2010, in Houston Texas, where his wife had relocated, during which Sevier had tried to take off with his infant son during a supervised visit with his in-laws. According to police records filed as part of the divorce proceedings, a fight ensued at a local McDonald’s when Sevier’s in-laws refused to let him leave with the child, during which Sevier physically attacked his father-in-law, and was arrested for assault. Sevier’s 7-month old son was also injured and treated in the ER for a large knot on his forehead.

In a petition during the divorce proceedings, Sevier described the attempted abduction of the infant as a “self help measure to rescue his son,” and describes hiring a former Navy SEAL and Army Ranger to surveil the fast food eatery while he carried out his plan. Though the charges were initially dismissed, Sevier was later found guilty of misdemeanor assault in the event and sentenced to 58 days in a Texas county jail.

Sevier called the incident a “fake assault case” in a conversation with The Daily Beast, and said his state-appointed attorney was “throwing the case big time.”

As part of the final divorce ruling in 2013, the judge issued a restraining order barring further visitation between Sevier and the child, and he was later charged with criminal contempt for failure to pay child support and communicating with his ex-wife against court orders. In August 2015, a court issued a warrant for Sevier’s arrest for failing to appear at criminal contempt proceedings.

The judge in his divorce case called the intimidation of his wife during the proceedings part of “a pattern…if he does not get his way, he is going to stop at nothing to smear people that oppose him. The same can be said of the officers that served within his military division, regiment, whatever the group is called.”

Sevier repeatedly called some of these decisions “fake news” by courts that he believes were “railroading” him.

“I don’t give a damn about what anybody thinks about me,” he said. “I know all about what fake news is. I know all about how courts can be abused.”

In 2014, four years after his license was inactivated for comments against John Rich, Sevier was arrested and accused of stalking and harassing Rich, and in a separate incident, a 17-year-old girl who worked at a Ben & Jerry’s, then lying about his identity to police. The charges were later reduced to misdemeanor harassment, to which Sevier pleaded guilty.

Sevier has tried at least twice to get his Tennessee law license reinstated—the court’s revocation states he can return to the practice of law upon showing “clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed”—but his petitions have been repeatedly denied.

In his second petition to the state Supreme Court in 2013, Sevier wrote, “I want to be able to say that I deactivated my TN law license out of protest…[and] to remove the public stigma that the TNSC helped create in conjunction [with] John Rich that I am a ‘mentally ill stalker,’ so that my efforts to fight the hell out sex trafficking and child porn will not be interfered with, given the pending Apple/HP lawsuit in Federal Court.”

While Sevier can’t technically represent others, the constitution still gives him the right to file lawsuits in his own interests—which he wields with a passion. In the six years following the change in his law license, Sevier has sued dozens of people and companies in federal court including, but not limited to Apple Computers, Google, BlackBerry, Android, Microsoft, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Planned Parenthood, Samsung, Verizon, xBox, A&E Networks, his ex-wife, several state governors, the U.S. government as a whole, and former President Barack Obama specifically. Most of the cases have been dismissed. Others are still open.

“There has never been a lawsuit that I’ve been engaged in where I did not get exactly what I wanted. Whether I win or lose, I got what I wanted,” said Sevier.

To date, a review of his federal pleadings shows he hasn’t won any.

In 2013, he sued A&E for religious persecution over the network’s decision to drop Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for a series of anti-gay remarks. Sevier’s colorful complaint, illustrated with Duck Dynasty memes and dotted with lyrics from The Postal Service, was ultimately dismissed in 2014 after he failed to serve any of the defendants. His failure to serve was partly due, he explained in court documents, to his involvement in several other cases.

At the same time, Sevier was suing Apple for selling him a device without pre-installed pornography filters—an omission that Sevier argued led to an addiction, which in turn caused the breakup of his marriage. “The Plaintiff began desiring, younger more beautiful girls featured in porn videos than his wife, who was no longer 21,” Sevier’s complaint stated. (Hundreds of documents filed in his divorce proceedings failed to mention pornography as a contributing factor.) The case was dismissed by a district court as “devoid of legal merit” and upheld by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which wrote that “despite Sevier’s voluminous filings, he has not identified any plausible legal theory in support of his accusations.”

Undeterred, in 2016, Sevier filed a federal lawsuit against Harris County, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for the right to marry his pornography-filled laptop computer—adding to challenges protesting same-sex marriage Sevier filed in Tennessee, Florida, and Utah—all of which have been dismissed or are heading toward dismissal.

Sevier says he is in the process of filing yet another lawsuit against the federal government, this time for putting up a rainbow flag in the halls of a government building.

“The rule of law is a joke to some of these district court judges,” he said. “It’s all really about who you draw. When I file stuff it’s usually on the right side of reality.“

Sevier believes internet pornography usage to be a “public health crisis,” for example, and that’s why he thinks the best answer is a bill that would charge a pornography filter removal fee on every internet-connected device. He said a $20 fee would be mandatory, but recommends retailers and manufacturers up the cost to $60 apiece to make up for costs and maintenance of the 24-7 call centers.

“It’s a vicious cycle. [Exposure to pornography] proliferates so many bad things,” Sevier said.

“We’re definitely not anti-sex,” Sevier said, referring to his group of like-minded advocates championing the bill. “Sex is good. God made it. But when humans are getting off to child pornography images, it doesn’t promote human flourishing.”

The immediate impact of the bill on low-income consumers has Dave Maass, a researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “dumbfounded.”

“The way it’s written, it would cover your router. It would cover your modem. If they’re buying their two kids a computer and they don’t want a standard filter on there, that’s going to cost them $80,” said Maass. “Plus, now Best Buy is sitting on a database of people who wanted their porn filters removed.”

Maass says he’s been calling every co-sponsor of the bill to tell them about both the impact of the bill and Sevier himself.

“I was calling every one of these states telling them, ‘Hey, listen, you’re probably thinking about introducing this bill. This guy, he’s lying about his name. He’s a disbarred attorney charged with stalking a country music star and a 17-year-old girl. He’s a confessed porn addict and wants to marry his computer,’” he said. “Nobody has been aware of this when I talked to them.”

State Reps. Bill Chumley and Mike Burns co-sponsored the Human Trafficking Prevention Act in South Carolina. Chumley called human trafficking an issue that he’s “really concerned with,” so he helped introduce the bill along with Burns.

“Yes, he’s working with us on this,” said Chumley of Sevier. “I don’t know anything about [him] so much. It didn’t really matter to me. I know about as much about him as anybody else who calls me. I don’t want to be associated with people who have a past that’s questionable. Unfortunately, I’m in politics. Otherwise, I’d be sitting at home.”

Burns said he’s “still behind the premise of the bill,” despite hearing about Sevier’s past. The centerpiece of the bill, the $20 fee, is now up for debate.

“We do not want more taxes. Period,” he said. “But we are trying to make a statement, and $20 ain’t gonna kill anybody.”

Sevier, for his part, insists that the press “can and must scrutinize this bill.”

“I don’t want to get it abused at all,” he said. “That’s a perfect use of the press.”

He says he simply wants the press to try to separate him and his past from the bill.

“I know The Daily Beast. I know you love to smear me,” he said. “Well, I’ve got good news. I don’t really care about being famous.”