Rise of Moors members, arrested after Massachusetts freeway standoff with police, clash with judge

·4 min read
A Massachusetts State Police K-9 team searches for explosives outside District Court in Malden, Mass., Tuesday before the men arrested during an armed standoff on Interstate 95 in Massachusetts last weekend were to appear for arraignment.
A Massachusetts State Police K-9 team searches for explosives outside District Court in Malden, Mass., Tuesday before the men arrested during an armed standoff on Interstate 95 in Massachusetts last weekend were to appear for arraignment.

MEDFORD, Mass. — Members of an armed group arrested on Route 95 during their attempted transit from Rhode Island to Maine early Saturday appeared for arraignment in a Massachusetts court Tuesday, drawing media from all over and presenting a raft of complications to a district court judge trying to get through her calendar.

Some of the first defendants to appear refused to answer some of Malden District Court Judge Emily A. Karstetter's questions as the in-person proceedings in her chambers were crashed and disrupted by people linked to the proceedings via Zoom.

Some defendants asserted their right to legal names that are different from the names provided by prosecutors. Some told Karstetter they wanted to either represent themselves or be represented by their own "legal counsel" of people not recognized by the court. But they insisted they were not waiving any of their rights.

The men are accused of weapons violations in connection with a lengthy standoff with Massachusetts State Police on Route 95 on Saturday. A man whom authorities identified as Jamal Tavon Sanders Latimer drew some in the courtroom to their feet when he appeared.

11 arrested in Massachusetts standoff: Here's what we know about the group and Moorish sovereign movement

Some of those people wore the attire of the Moors.

A woman wore a royal blue sash with the group's name, Rise of the Moors, inscribed on one side and "Secretary" written on the other. Another woman appeared to be close to a man identified in news recent media reports as Steven Latimer.

The defendant identified as Latimer says his real name is Jamal Talib Abdulleh Bey. Prosecutors say he did most of the talking with the police on Saturday. He told Karstetter he is a retired U.S. Marine, that he has weapons expertise and that he knows how to train others in weapons use.

The group had traveled overnight to avoid traffic, he said, and kept its ammunition separate from its weapons.

He also asserted, referring to a 2016 legal case, that his group has the right under "the peaceful journey's doctrine "to travel as a 'well-regulated militia.'"

"That apparently did not happen," he said.

He argued that the peaceful outcome to the standoff, with no injuries, is evidence that he should be free to go without detention.

Unlike two other defendants, Latimer was not wearing camouflage fatigues when he entered the chambers, which have a semi-enclosed area for defendants.

"We're not extremists," he said. "We don't go against the Constitution."

The judge pressed him on whether he was being coerced to face prosecution without a lawyer. He replied, "Yes."

She was the one coercing him, he said before he was removed from the courtroom. "I don't need a dangerousness hearing either," he yelled before the door shut. "I should be released today."

He walked back that remark later, and Karstetter granted a three-day continuance to Assistant District Attorney Graham Van Epps, who sought more time to present documents, video and other information.

Latimer's appearances were punctuated by bursts of commentary piped into the chambers via speakers linked to a Zoom audience. "High treason, high treason, high treason," one person said. Earlier, during a recess, the phrase "Free the Moors," was heard in the chambers.

Karstetter repeatedly had Zoom audience members cut off and muted.

As the members resisted many aspects of the judicial process, Karstetter was able to make slow progress with some degree of compliance from the defendants. By mid-afternoon, on more than two occasions, Van Epps made his arguments for probable cause.

He recounted the story of Massachusetts State Police Trooper Ryan Casey, who noticed a large van in the breakdown lane of Route 95 in Wakefield. On his approach to the van, Casey engaged Latimer in an exchange recorded by his body-worn camera, according to prosecutors.

A court record filed by prosecutors says that Latimer refused to put down his weapon, stating, "We can't do that."

"I'm going to stay armed for my safety just as you are going to stay armed for yours."

On Tuesday, Latimer asserted that the weapons seizure is another reason to release him without any worry about violence.

An affidavit filed in court lists the guns, ammunition and equipment seized at the scene including two loaded rifles a Ruger 556 with a 28-round magazine and a loaded Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, and a loaded pistol.

Van Epps described "AR-15-style" guns among the seizures. The list notes both a PA-15 rifle and a DPMS Panther Arms A15 among the five rifles confiscated.

Also seized were more than 1,200 rounds of ammunition of different calibers, more than 130 loaded magazines and more than 120 12-gauge shotgun shells, according to the affidavit. The seizures, it says, included 10 ballistic vests, camouflage uniforms, helmets and a pair of night-vision goggles.

Follow Mark Reynolds on Twitter: @mrkrynlds.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Rise of Moors: Massachusetts freeway standoff suspects appear in court