Sovereign citizens' lawsuit against Mass. State Police dismissed

Several Rise of the Moors members claimed discrimination after officers arrested them during an armed standoff last month


By Katie Mulvaney
The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Rise of the Moors accusing the Massachusetts State Police and various news organizations of defamation and discrimination over their arrests following an armed standoff.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr. on Tuesday threw out the lawsuit brought by the self-described Moorish American National organization and 10 of the men arrested in the roadside encounter, finding that federal courts are barred under longstanding policy and court precedent from interfering in state court proceedings.

Police work in the area of an hours long standoff with a group of armed men that partially shut down interstate 95, Saturday, July 3, 2021, in Wakefield, Mass.
Police work in the area of an hours long standoff with a group of armed men that partially shut down interstate 95, Saturday, July 3, 2021, in Wakefield, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Federal courts must abstain from preventing the state from "carrying out the important and necessary task of enforcing laws against socially harmful conduct the State believes in good faith to be punishable under its laws and the Constitution," McConnell wrote, citing a 1971 ruling.

The ruling puts to an end the lawsuit alleging defamation, discrimination based on national origin, and deprivation of their rights under the color of law against Massachusetts State Police; the judge overseeing their criminal cases, Malden District Court Judge Emily A. Karstetter; and various media outlets.

The Rise of the Moors, the group's leader, Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey, also known as Jamhal Latimer, and nine of the other men arrested in the July 3 standoff had argued that they were exercising their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, as well as their inalienable right to have a well-regulated militia.

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McConnell pointed out procedural errors in the filing, namely that corporations, such as the Pawtucket-based Rise of the Moors, cannot represent themselves and that the men had failed to provide the financial information necessary to determine if they could proceed without paying court fees, as they requested.

In addition, McConnell found that the group had "not even remotely stated a defamation claim."

The men had been attempting to challenge their prosecutions in state court in Massachusetts on charges that include unlawful possession of a firearm, eight counts; unlawful possession of ammunition; use of body armor in commission of a crime; possession of a high-capacity magazine; improper storage of firearms in a vehicle; and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The men were arrested and charged following an hours-long standoff in which authorities closed Route 95 and ordered nearby residents to shelter in place.

According to a police report, a Massachusetts state trooper encountered the men around 1:10 a.m. July 3, on Route 95 north, in Wakefield, where they had pulled two vans into the breakdown lane.

The group told police that they were refueling at the side of the road because they didn't want to alarm the public as the men were wearing camouflage, helmets and body armor, and carrying weapons. The men refused commands to put down their weapons, authorities alleged.

After several hours of negotiations, Latimer and the others surrendered and disarmed themselves, the police said. Police said they recovered three AR-15 rifles, two pistols, a bolt-action rifle, a shotgun and a short barrel rifle as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Eleven men, ages 17 to 40 and hailing from Rhode Island, New York and Michigan, were arrested. Two of the men refused to identify themselves and a third was a 17-year-old whose name will not be released because he's a minor, police said.

Two of the men, Quinn Cumberlander, 40, and Latimer, 29, both of Pawtucket, face additional charges in Rhode Island.

The next court date in Massachusetts is Sept. 8.

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