The 'Jesus Christ Superstar' actor arrested in connection to the Capitol riot claims 'divine authority' in combative first hearing

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Images of James Beeks included in a Justice Department statement of facts.Justice Department

  • An accused Capitol rioter rejected the justice system's authority during his first court appearance.

  • James Beeks was arrested earlier this month in connection to the January 6 attack.

  • The actor's antics in court Monday irritated Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who considered jailing him.

One of the more bizarre January 6 cases delved further into the peculiar when an accused Capitol rioter who was arrested while touring in a Broadway production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” earlier this month attended his first court hearing on Monday.

James Beeks, an actor who was playing Judas in the musical production, was arrested in Milwaukee last week on charges related to the Capitol riot after investigators attended two performances of the show to find him.

Prosecutors said the 49-year-old introduced himself to a group of Oath Keepers two weeks before the insurrection and joined them on the morning of January 6, where he donned a Michael Jackson tour jacket and carried a shield into the Capitol as part of a dozen Oath Keepers who were among some of the first to breach the building.

Appearing in court for the first time Monday, Beeks narrowly avoided pretrial detainment after he claimed “divine authority” in an attempt to reject the United States' authority over him.

The actor's antics irritated Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, when he declined to represent himself, saying, “I cannot represent myself because I am myself. I reserve all rights at all times and waive none, ever,” according to Politico.

The judge had little patience for his conspiracy theory musings.

“That's all gobbledygook. I have no idea what you're saying,” Howell reportedly responded.

Howell claimed that Beeks' refusal to acknowledge the US justice system, as well as two affidavits he attempted to submit to the court, suggested the actor subscribed to a “sovereign citizen” theory, though Beeks rejected the characterization.

Subscribers to the pseudolegal movement believe that “they — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — should decide which laws to obey and which to ignore,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The movement has racist and antisemitic roots and is predicated upon a decades-old conspiracy theory that posits the US government's legal system, known as common law, was secretly replaced by admiralty law, which governs the sea and international commerce, the SPLC said.

“I'm not a sovereign citizen. There's no such thing. That's an oxymoron and it's even an insult,” he said in court, according to Politico.

Despite initially telling the courtroom he would not represent himself, the actor spoke on his own behalf for the majority of the hearing, according to CNN.

Ahead of Monday's hearing, federal prosecutors did not ask that Beeks be kept in jail, but his outbursts changed that mid-hearing, the outlet reported. Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Nestler, acknowledging Beeks' refusal to accept the court's authority, said in court on Monday that he would, in fact, request pretrial detention for the defendant.

“A defendant who rejects the jurisdiction of the court…rejects the rule of law,” Howell reportedly said, “is typically not released pre-trial.”

The judge, however, did eventually decide to release Beeks with several conditions, including a GPS monitoring requirement and a curfew, after a public defender spoke privately with the actor in an attempt to convince him to accept the terms of a pretrial release, according to CNN.

Michelle Peterson, the public defender representing Beeks during Monday's hearing, did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Beeks is the second accused Capitol rioter to make claims of divine authority. In July, Pennsylvania pizzeria owner Pauline Bauer made a similar appeal, claiming special legal privileges as a “self-governed individual.” She was sent to jail in September after she refused to follow basic release conditions.

More than 700 people have been arrested in connection with the Capitol riot thus far. 129 have pleaded guilty.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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