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Florida actor charged with riot on Capitol Hill nearly stayed in jail

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An actor accused of storming the United States Capitol as a member of the far-right militia Oath Keepers nearly remained in jail after a judge learned on Monday that the Florida man was contesting the authority of the courts over him.

A prosecutor said he did not intend to seek remand for Orlando’s James Beeks until he learned in court that the actor did not accept court jurisdiction over him .

Beeks, who starred in a touring production of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar and as a Michael Jackson impersonator, initially declined legal representation and made comments the judge called gibberish.

An accused who rejects the jurisdiction of the court, rejects being subject to the laws of the United States, rejects the rule of law is usually not released prior to trial because that person cannot be trusted to comply with conditions of pre-trial release, U.S. District Chief Justice Beryl Howell warned Beeks during a hearing in federal court in Washington, DC

The production company that employs Beeks said it recently informed the company that he was a sovereign citizen, prosecutors said. At Monday’s hearing, Beeks denied being part of the extremist Sovereign Citizens movement, which believes the US government is illegitimate.

His chances of being released from prison seemed to diminish as he offered answers the judge said she couldn’t understand. Then another lawyer, Michelle Peterson, intervened for Beeks.

Beeks then let Petersen represent him and was released from jail after agreeing to abide by court-imposed release conditions such as accepting GPS surveillance, not owning a gun and having no contact with members. of the Oath Keepers.

Beeks was arrested in Milwaukee last Tuesday. He has yet to plead a felony charge of obstructing Congress and a felony charge of unlawfully entering a building or restricted land.

Authorities say Beeks, who entered the Capitol with a Michael Jacksons jacket WRONG world tour, was a member of the Oath Keepers and had paid dues to the group two weeks before the riot.

Since January 6, more than 650 people have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the violation of the United States Capitol, officials said.

A few other defendants indicted in the Capitol Riot espoused ideologies and expressed rhetoric that appears to be in line with the sovereign citizens movement.

In September, another Washington federal judge jailed self-represented defendant Pauline Bauer for failing to comply with court orders to cooperate with probation officers upon her provisional release. Bauer, who owns a restaurant in rural Kane, Pa., Repeatedly interrupted the judge during hearings and unsuccessfully argued that the court had no jurisdiction over her.

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By JACQUES BILLEAUD, Associated Press

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