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More suspects in Wakefield standoff appear in court Wednesday

The men from Rhode Island, New York, and Michigan are being arraigned on various gun-related charges.
Credit: AP
At Malden District Court, Aaron Johnson is arraigned on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Medford, Mass., resulting from the hours long I-95 highway stand off July 3. The defendants, 10 men and a 17-year-old juvenile, say they're members of a group called Rise of the Moors and not subject to federal or state laws. They face several charges including unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition. (Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool)

MALDEN, Mass. — Two more people charged in connection with a 9-hour armed standoff that partially shut down Interstate 95 in Wakefield, Massachusetts, over the weekend appeared before a judge in Malden on Wednesday.

"I committed no crime," one of the unidentified men said in the courtroom.

Nearly all of the 11 men—who claimed to be part of a group called the Rise of the Moors—refused to speak with their court-appointed lawyers, delaying their arraignments. One of the men charged did agree to have a court appointed lawyer during Wednesday's arraignment. 

Seven of the suspects appeared in Malden District Court on Tuesday for their arraignments, which took a nearly an entire day due to numerous outbursts in court.

The men from Rhode Island, New York, and Michigan are being arraigned on various gun-related charges.

Those arrested Saturday were identified as Jamhal Latimer, also known as Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey; Quinn Cumberlander; Robert Rodriguez; Wilfredo Hernandez, also known as Will Musa; Alban El Curraugh; Aaron Lamont Johnson, also known as Tarrif Sharif Bey; Lamar Dow; Conrad Pierre; a 17-year-old juvenile; and two who have refused to identify themselves, state police said.

Several of the suspects have asked for their leader to represent them, even though he is not a lawyer and has also been charged.

"These individuals face sentences up to 10 years, according to NBC 10 Boston legal analyst Michael Coyne.

"It’s a mistake to do that to yourself," said Coyne. "You wouldn’t pull your own tooth, you wouldn’t do your own heart surgery, you shouldn’t try to be your own lawyers in a complicated case like this."

All of the suspects are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, unlawful possession of guns and ammunition, possession of a high-capacity magazine, use of body armor in a crime and improper storage of firearms in a vehicle. Hernandez, Johnson, Dow and the unnamed teen are also charged with giving a false name to police. It could not immediately be determined if they have lawyers.

Troopers recovered three AR-15 rifles, two pistols, a bolt-action rifle, a shotgun and a short-barrel rifle. The group refers to itself as a militia and said they adhere to "Moorish Sovereign Ideology,'' police said. One of the people arrested was a male juvenile and two others refused to give their names.

The standoff began early Saturday when a Massachusetts State Police trooper stopped to offer assistance to the vehicles he found on the side of the highway in the town of Wakefield. Police later said they were refueling. The trooper called for backup and most of the group went into the nearby woods until they surrendered to a police tactical team just after 10 a.m.

The standoff closed I-95 in the area during the busy holiday weekend and some area residents were told to shelter in place. The group told police they traveling from Rhode Island to Maine to conduct "training.''

None of the men, who were dressed in military fatigues and body armor and were armed with long guns and pistols, had a license to carry firearms in Massachusetts.

During the standoff one member of the group broadcast on a social media account of the group "Rise of the Moors" that they were not antigovernment or anti-police. The website for the group says they are "Moorish Americans dedicated to educating new Moors and influencing our Elders.''

The Southern Poverty Law Center's website says the Moorish sovereign citizen movement is a collection of independent organizations and individuals that emerged in the 1990s as an offshoot of the antigovernment sovereign citizens' movement. People in the movement believe individual citizens hold sovereignty over, and are independent of, the authority of federal and state governments.

It is not clear if Rise of the Moors is specifically affiliated with that movement.

Two people who claim to be members of the group spoke outside of the courthouse Tuesday and said the incident was merely a miscommunication.

“Their self-professed leader wanted very much known their ideology is not anti-government,” Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason said. “Our investigation will provide us more insight into what their motivation, what their ideology is.”

Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow for the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, said the sovereign citizen movement is rarely involved in paramilitary activity.

"This particular group, Rise of the Moors, is actually interested in that so that makes them unusual for groups within this movement,'' Pitcavage said.

A number of the pioneers of the sovereign citizen movement in the 1970s were white supremacists. The vast majority of Moorish sovereign citizens are African American, Pitcavage said.

"I find it very ironic... that the Moorish sovereign citizen movement is so large and active, they actually repeat many theories that were actually cooked up, again many years ago, by white supremacists,'' he said.

The group has not returned requests for comment.

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