The 1982 Pendragon incident involved a would-be King who hatched a plot to isolate Marin County, California, from the mainland by blowing up bridges and take it over in a paramilitary-style coup. This takeover was to be facilitated by a laser gun placed atop a mountain that overlooks the city. Marin County was to become a kingdom based on Camelot, and the leader of the plot, one Mark Richards, was to be its king. Those that helped him take over were to become knights. Or at least that the most glamorous version of it: in reality, the Kingdom of Pendragon was part of the bait Richards used to snooker two teenagers into murdering his friend for money.
Richards, a down on his luck 29 year-old contractor, had a friend named Richard Baldwin, who owned a auto restoration business and was said to keep large amounts of cash in his house. Richards decided to rob Baldwin, and realized that killing him first would make it easier. Richards began looking for partners in the robbery-murder. He told recruits that the proceeds from the sale of Baldwin’s possessions would fund the purchase of a laser gun and other implements necessary for the takeover of Marin County, after which they would be its leaders. Though a fiefdom of their own was an appealing prospect, recruits balked when they realized Richards was actually soliciting their help in murdering someone. Finally, one of Richard’s employees, 17 year-old Crossan Hoover, agreed to help. He was enticed with promises of $5000, a dune buggy, and lodging in a remodeled portion of Richards’ house. Hoover was also to be made a duke or knight of Pendragon.
Less than a week later, Hoover and another teenager named Andrew went to Baldwin’s business and beat and stabbed him to death. Then they raided his house and took a reported $3,000 and copious amounts of marijuana. Richards apparently thought himself as untouchable as a real monarch, as later that day he bought a boat with money stolen from Baldwin’s house. He was also caught using Baldwin’s credit card and checks. And if this wasn’t enough to prove he slept through criminal school, Richards and Hoover reportedly went around straight up bragging that they’d killed somebody.
A few days later, Baldwin’s body was found in the San Pablo Bay, wrapped in a tarp and weighted down with a boat motor. Hoover, Richards, and Andrew were quickly (and obviously) arrested. Police uncovered the Pendragon plot as part of the investigation and initially took the plot fairly seriously. Maps, aerial photographs, and plans to build machine guns were found in Richards’ possession, but his defense attorney explained the items were research for a sci-fi novel he was writing, or possibly a movie script. “Whether the actual secession reports were a publicity stunt for the movie, or whether the movie was a cover story for the actual secession, is not clear,” Strauss wrote in How to Start Your Own Country.
Richards’ defense attorney petitioned the courts to exclude mention of Pendragon, on the grounds that talk of a military takeover would prejudice the jury. But the prosecutor argued that the plot and the promises of knighthood were critical to getting the teens involved. Ultimately, Richards was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole, while Hoover was sentenced to 26 years to life. Andrew was granted immunity for testifying against his whilom comrades.
In 2007, Hoover’s attorney argued that Hoover did get a fair trial because, if he had, he would have been declared insane. A federal judge agreed and overturned the conviction. Hoover was granted a new trial, but a 2009 ruling by an appeals court found that the information withheld from a psychiatrist, which would have helped the insanity defense, did not actually affect the verdict. Federal judges were required to uphold the ruling, and the promise of a new trial disappeared. As if that weren’t disappointing enough, a week after his conviction was reinstated, a parole board decided Hoover wouldn’t be eligible to apply for parole for another fifteen years. Hoover is currently still imprisoned, paying a hefty price for succumbing to the allure of a kingdom that could never exist.
More information about this remarkable tale – including a ton of unbelievable details left out for purposes of length – can be found at http://murderpedia.org/male.H/h/hoover-crossan-david.htm and https://sites.google.com/site/skyzabove/.
For example, “She said that Richards had identified himself as Francois Ragocazy, a South American consular official, and had introduced his mother, Lois, as an aunt. Apparently fearing that she might recognize him from newspaper photographs, he had told her that a cousin, named Mark Richards, was in trouble with the law. When she asked him why he kept a gun in his car, the fictitious diplomat had told her that he needed it for “political reasons.””
Official court documents can be found here: http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/3d/187/1074.html.