- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Seven people claiming to be sovereign citizens were arrested June 19 and charged with burglary after Charles County sheriff’s officers found them illegally living in a vacant Waldorf townhouse.
Neighbors grew suspicious and called police around 7 p.m. after witnessing some unusual activity at the house in the 4900 block of Olympia Place.
Officers arrived to learn that the property was owned by a bank and should have been vacant, but inside, they found seven people who claimed they were sovereign citizens with the right to occupy a vacant house, police reported.
Lamont Butler, 29 of Washington, D.C.; and Waldorf residents Artez Womack, 28; Kenneth Mitchell Jr., 19; Rashid Daniels, 26; Lashonda Washington, 28; Sakita Holly, 34; and Tia Carpenter, 46, were arrested and charged with burglary. On his charging document, Butler is listed with the last name “El-Butler.”
Carpenter also was charged with second-degree assault for biting an officer on the hand as he grabbed a purse she had retrieved from the front passenger seat of a nearby parked car, charging papers state. Officers had ordered Carpenter not to reach into the car and to back away from it, the papers state.
The defendants showed officers papers demonstrating that they had provided notice that they were taking ownership of the property, but refused to provide identification, according to charging documents.
“Several opportunities were given by the officers to the defendants to comply but they all refused to do so claiming that they are sovereign citizens and do not recognize our authority,” the records state.
Butler was released Thursday on $3,000 bail. Womack, Mitchell, Daniels, Washington, Holly and Carpenter were released Thursday on their own recognizance.
“The house is bank-owned, it’s been vacant for a while, and we believe they broke off one of the locks on the front … and have basically been living there just about a month,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Diane Richardson said.
Richardson called Olympia Place, a circle of townhouses nestled between Billingsley Road and Sheffield Circle, a “pretty tight-knit community.” People in the neighborhood eventually grew suspicious and called police after there was “not disruptive activity, just a lot of activity” at the house, she said.
The investigation is ongoing.
Butler and Holly were previously charged in January with burglary in Montgomery County for allegedly occupying a Bethesda home that was for sale. At the time of his arrest, Butler told police that he was a member of the Moorish Nation and had a right to claim the property.
Investigators later learned that he had conspired with Holly, his girlfriend. They are both scheduled to stand trial Sept. 17.
For years, similar cases have cropped up nationwide involving so-called “sovereign citizens,” who generally harbor anti-government views, do not carry government-issued identification, and eschew laws requiring the payment of taxes and registration of motor vehicles, according to a release from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office.
The department is asking that anyone who suspects that similar groups have broken into a house not confront them, but call police instead.
“Very often with groups of people who claim sovereign citizenship is they don’t pay taxes, but they still enjoy the benefits of what taxes pay for,” Richardson said.