At 8 a.m. Friday, nine sheriff’s deputies were bunched behind the security desk at the entrance to the Charles County Circuit Court.
Two Moorish Americans — who claim to be sovereign citizens of a fictitious North African empire — were scheduled to make their first appearance in front of Judge Monise Brown for several gun-related charges.
Lamont Butler and George Neal-Bey were arrested after a confrontation with Charles County sheriff’s deputies during a traffic stop last month. Both men were armed at the time. Butler was also charged with resisting arrest.
The men — part of a group of Moorish Americans who have tried to take over a southern Maryland gun range — had no lawyers and were representing themselves. They believe they are immune from U.S. legal and financial systems, including the Charles County officials who are currently holding them without bail at the county’s detention center.
“Calling all Moorish American Nationals to be physically present on 12/30/2022,” a notice on the group’s website read in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 30 hearing. “We need every one of you (near or far) to show up!!!”
But as court was gaveled into session at 8:30 a.m., the three rows of benches remained mostly empty.
Judge Brown booted up Zoom.
This wasn’t Butler’s first brush with the law. In 2013, he tried to occupy a 12-bedroom Bethesda mansion worth $6 million and was charged with breaking and entering, fraud and attempted theft.