A39-year-old member of a Black nationalist group, who broke into the vacant home of a New Jersey woman and refused to leave because he claimed his status as a sovereign citizen allowed him “access to the property”, has been slapped with a slew of charges by authorities.
According to NBC News, the accused, identified as Hubert A. John, was apprehended June 17 at the Newark residence of a Black woman. In a statement, Newark Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara said the home in question was bought by the lady in February. But when she recently went to the property, she couldn’t enter as the locks had been changed by four men “claiming to have legal residency of her vacant property.”
The woman subsequently reported the situation to the police and when the officers who responded to the scene “requested the documentation from the four suspects”, the men “claimed to be sovereign citizens of the Al Moroccan Empire and that their status permitted them access to the property.”
Although the men eventually vacated the home after the officers ordered them to, John returned before the homeowner could have the locks replaced. O’Hara said the accused “used a key and entered the home before placing a Moorish flag in the window.” Officers later arrested John and took him out of the home. He has been charged with criminal mischief, burglary, trespassing and making terroristic threats.
Prior to the arrest, the homeowner, identified as Shanetta, said the extremist group had sent her threatening letters and even ignored orders to vacate her property, PEOPLE reported. Per the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC): “Sovereign citizens believe that they get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don’t think they should have to pay taxes.”
The organization adds that the “Moorish sovereigns” – of which the Al Moroccan Empire falls under – usually get “into conflict with federal and state authorities over their refusal to obey laws and government regulations.”
“Moorish sovereigns espouse an interpretation of sovereign doctrine that African Americans constitute an elite class within American society with special rights and privileges that convey on them a sovereign immunity placing them beyond federal and state authority,” SPLC says.
Meanwhile, Shanetta, in a TikTok video, said the accused has since been released, PEOPLE reported. The homeowner, therefore, called on law enforcement to intensify patrols in the neighborhood so as to ensure safety.
In another video, Shanetta warned people to be wary of such people and encounters no matter how weird her story may sound.
“I was randomly but not randomly targeted by a terrorist group that doesn’t follow any of our rules, and would be violent in efforts to steal my house,” Shanetta said. “It’s not the sexy crime, Lifetime show that we’re used to seeing. … This was something for me to try to communicate a cautionary tale that is bizarre and crazy but it’s real life. It happened.”