Defendants claim sovereignty

Two men convicted, but they don't recognize state court power.

The Macomb Daily/May 7, 2005
By Chad Halcom

Two members of a political/religious order that doesn't recognize the legal authority of the state court system could face jail or prison time after they were both convicted by a jury.

Jurors took roughly 90 minutes in deliberations this week before convicting Alvester Jones, 62, and Reginald Jones, 40, in a trial before Macomb County Circuit Judge James M. Biernat. But the case against them encountered some obstacles from start to finish, officials said, since both men are part of an organization that believes it is not subject to the local authorities and their laws.

"They didn't recognize the authority of the Macomb Circuit Court, so sometimes we had some communication difficulty with them," said Jeffery Cojocar, a defense attorney for Alvester Jones in the case. "But overall, it didn't come up that much as a factor in the case except in the (jury selection)."

Prosecutors said the Joneses belong to the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a quasi-religious order based near Macon, Ga., but the defense attorneys and a police officer in the case identified them as "Sovereign Moors." In either case, officials said, both of them cite the tenets of their organization and refuse to recognize the legitimacy of courts in any state throughout the country.

"Of course they have every right to their political and religious views, and we don't in any way want to infringe on those. But their legal views -- the fact that they say they are not subject to our laws -- are utterly without merit," said Stephen Steinhardt, the Macomb County assistant prosecutor handling the case. "They live in our country, and they are subject to all the same laws as everyone else is."

Both men were facing a felony charge for illegal possession of a Taser shocking device concealed in a compartment under the passenger seat of a car stopped by St. Clair Shores police last November. They also faced an additional 90-day misdemeanor charge of refusal to submit to fingerprinting after their arrest.

But Judge Biernat granted a defense request during the trial to dismiss the taser charge against Alvester Jones, who was in the passenger seat of the vehicle driven and owned by Reginald Jones. The judge agreed with defense arguments that no evidence in the trial ever indicated that Alvester Jones was aware of the Taser stored in a compartment under the passenger seat.

"If this evidence were sufficient, then any person getting into a vehicle operated by another would have to search that vehicle, for anything illegal," Biernat stated in his ruling from the bench.

The Jones vehicle also had some sort of self-made driver licenses and vehicle plates to emulate diplomatic plates, which were confiscated by Shores police, court officials said. But the Jones were not cited or ticketed for driving without a valid driver license.

"My understanding is they don't recognize the authority of any state courts, only the federal courts," said Khalid Sheikh, a defense attorney for Reginald Jones. "And some of this they base on court rulings like the Dred Scott (U.S. Supreme Court) case from the 1800s, and the interstate commerce clause and the right to travel between states."

The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors stems from an organizational movement founded by Malachi Z. York in the late 1960s, which ultimately relocated and made its main headquarters near Macon in 1993.

Historically, the Nuwaubians and their forebears under York have dressed in attire ranging from traditional Islamic attire to cowboy-type garb and claimed York was an extraterrestrial from the planet "Rizq" in the "19th galaxy." More recently, the Nuwaubians have claimed a heritage drawing from Native Americans and ancient Egyptians.

Sheikh said his client would likely appeal the two convictions. Both men remain free on bond pending a sentencing date June 15.















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