This 2005 picture shows shows Basil Marceaux, a Republican candidate for governor of Tennessee. Marceaux said Thursday, July 29, he's pleased with the national attention he's been getting for his gubernatorial bid after he appeared on the newscast of a Nashville television station, even if the coverage has largely mocked the perennial candidate's appearance and positions. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press)
NASHVILLE — Basil Marceaux Sr., the Chattanooga Republican candidate for governor whose unconventional political views have attracted national attention, has been in and out of Hamilton County Criminal Court since 1993, county records show.
Many of the 19 cases involved misdemeanor traffic infractions. Marceaux, 57, was found not guilty by reason of insanity on July 25, 2005, in seven cases involving mostly traffic offenses ranging from driving an unregistered vehicle to failing to have insurance, according to court records.
In previous years, he had been found guilty in a case involving vandalism and possession of drug paraphernalia. He once was arrested for theft, records show.
In a Tuesday evening interview, Marceaux, who appeared Monday night on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmer Live!” television show, said his traffic infractions for offenses such as speeding, auto registration and failure to have insurance were deliberate acts to test traffic-stop laws he believes violate the U.S. Constitution.
His campaign platform includes a pledge to “immune you from all state crimes for the rest of you life!”
“I was in court for four traffic violations,” said Marceaux, who has become an Internet sensation with more than 1 million hits on the search site Google. “I set them (incidents) up.”
He confirmed he was ordered hospitalized for observation at the state’s Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute on two occasions.
“Just write the truth. I’m not ashamed of any of that,” said Marceaux, who contended a local policeman pointed a gun in his face once after stopping him and a friend. “I can’t allow cops to shoot people 50 times.”
He said a psychiatrist told him “there’s nothing wrong with you. And I said, I know it.”
Marceaux said he still visits a psychiatrist based on Rhea County “so he can verify nothing is wrong with me.”
Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon knows Marceaux, noting the Soddy-Daisy resident “has filed many, many lawsuits in the court of General Sessions. Everyone there has always tried to treat him with respect and courtesy.”
Moon described Marceaux as a “character,” and noted, “I have always liked characters and have always been kind of infatuated with people who hear the sound of a different drummer.”
Marceaux said he pleaded guilty to the check charge, which he said involved cashing a check someone sent to him during a previous campaign. It turned out to be worthless and he was charged, Marceaux said.
He became an instant viral hit after appearing in a parade of gubernatorial candidates’ videos on WSVM-TV in Nashville in late July.
The Chattanooga resident said on the Nashville news station that he believes all citizens should carry guns.
Much of Marceaux’s political views stem from a belief that federal officials have ignored an 1866 law involving the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency set up after the Civil War to help the freed slaves. Marceaux claims to be an agent of the bureau and says the government has violated civil rights nationwide for more than a century.
He reiterated those thoughts to Kimmel, saying: “After reading the Constitution, it says we have a right to bear arms against our government.”
“But would people be required to bear arms? Would they have to have guns?” Kimmel asked.
“If they didn’t have one, they couldn’t represent themselves, protect themselves against the government, so I’ll probably fine them $10 if they (don’t have a gun),” Marceaux replied.
“Little investigators on the street with no power” would be the ones issuing the fines, he said.
Staff writer Michael Stone contributed to this story.
Continue reading by following these links to related stories:
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...