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Episode 132: Darryl La Ray Johnson Sentencing Hearing

Darryl La Ray Johnson, 32, of Great Falls, Idaho, pleaded guilty on March 1 2017 to possession of marijuana. In May, he went to court for a sentencing hearing after spending five months in jail. At the beginning of the hearing, he fires his attorney at the hearing and asked to represent himself. He goes on to argue that an Idaho judge has no jurisdiction over him because he’s a “Moorish American national.” Johnson is referring to a religious sect formed in the 1920s on the belief that African-Americans came to America from Morocco and they’re related to the ancient Canaanites and Moabites of the Bible. Adherents claim Moors were America’s indigenous inhabitants and are thereby entitled to self-governance.

This claim (lack of jurisdiction) has been used numerous times by different groups under what is known as the “sovereign citizen movement.” According to this claim, indigenous individuals are not subject to government statute. However, the legal arguments claiming individuals are “sovereign” have been rejected by the courts. Judge Pickett threatens to place Johnson in contempt of court after he continually interrupts Pickett and the prosecutor. The judge comes close to losing his temper two or three times, but overall remains admirably cool and calm, given Johnson’s refusal to abide by the courtroom rules. He gives Johnson more than one chance to request the services of an attorney or go on probation. But Johnson never quits, and ends up with a prison term.

Listen to the episode here.