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