‘Moorish sovereigns’ try to seize $4.5 million Woodway home

Instead, the pair was arrested for investigation of burglary. One claims to be a leader of a Moorish extremist group.

EDMONDS — Two members of a sovereign citizen group broke into a vacant $4.5 million home in Woodway, claiming they had seized the property under Moorish law, according to police.

Six times since October, residents of Edmonds or Woodway have reported self-proclaimed Moorish sovereigns showing up to expensive homes uninvited and claiming the legal right to seize the property. Many adherents of the extremist movement claim they are exempt from all civil or criminal law, citing a fictitious treaty from 1787, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Marcel Maddox Bey, 46, of Mountlake Terrace, is listed as part of the Supreme Judiciary of a group known as the Moorish National Republic Federal Government.

Around 9:05 p.m. Friday, a neighbor called police saying someone broke into a gated home in the 21700 block of Chinook Road in Woodway, according to reports filed Monday in Everett District Court. The neighbor knew the owners, and knew nobody should be inside. It’s an affluent, exclusive neighborhood. The house — with five bedrooms, five bathrooms, an indoor basketball court, indoor pool and four-car garage — went up for sale a few weeks ago.

Around the same time Friday, a security company alerted officers that someone set off an alarm inside. Police arrived to find a silver car with California license plates outside the gate. A man and a woman were on the other side. Security footage later confirmed two people had broken into the building, according to police.

Officers recognized Maddox Bey from the other recent run-ins with Moorish sovereigns. Those incidents got some national media buzz, when a man wearing a tall red fez — later identified as Maddox Bey — knocked on doors carrying documents written in a strange form of legalese, announcing to at least one resident, “I am here to let you know that I am the legal owner of the property and today is the day!” In those incidents, the unwanted guests departed without making any direct threats of violence.

Maddox Bey had been given trespass warnings at “several area homes” prior to the Friday break in, according to Edmonds police.

“The suspects had posted a notice on the property’s For-Sale sign indicating their new ownership of the property under Moroccan Law,” police said Monday.

Officers noted Friday that Maddox Bey and the woman, Courtnie Simone Martin, 32, of Tacoma, refused to say if they understood their Miranda rights, and also declined to speak with police. Both were booked into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of residential burglary.

Court records under the name Marcel Maddox show he defaulted on a home loan, causing his lender to put the house up for sale in 2016. Maddox Bey filed for an injunction and proclaimed that, “as a Moorish-American, he was immune from taxation as well as criminal and civil legal jurisdiction in the United States,” says an opinion from the state Court of Appeals.

The appellate court found “no support for his claims that he is beyond the reach of law,” and rejected his arguments.

Maddox legally appended “Bey” to his last name in 2017, according to court records. It’s common for members of the movement to take on the name Bey or El as a symbol of Moorish heritage. One prominent sect of the movement “asserts that Moors were among the earliest settlers to America and the rightful owners of all lands ceded to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase,” according to the SPLC.

On a conference call of Moorish sovereign citizens streamed on YouTube in late January, Maddox Bey recounted being arrested for a warrant in 2019. He claimed he had outsmarted the local legal system by repeating a statement over and over declaring, in part, his Moorish “sovereign, divine and natural rights to my corporeal and incorporeal and incorporeal hereditaments.”

He would repeat the script until the court hearing ground to a halt, causing the judge to set another new hearing while he remained behind bars. According to him, this happened about 20 times. He expressed disdain for the “supposed judge,” and also prosecutors, whom he labeled “actually British agents.”

Maddox Bey began to speak at his bail hearing Monday.

“Actually, before we get into any subject matter — ” he said.

But his public defender cut him off, saying he’d advised him not to talk to the judge, and the pace of the legal banter between the attorneys prevented Maddox Bey from interjecting again.

A Snohomish County deputy prosecutor noted Maddox Bey had been accused of violating anti-harassment orders on March 26 and March 27, as well as May 29. Maddox Bey listed an address as “general delivery,” which is common for people with no fixed home.

Everett District Court Judge Tam Bui asked him if he would be able to check his mail at the post office each day for court papers.

“Sure,” he mumbled.

“I didn’t hear you,” Bui said.

“Yes,” he said.

Hearing almost nothing else from the defendant, the judge decided to release him without requiring bail.

Martin was released on personal recognizance Monday, too.

Martin had filed for a protection order against a former boyfriend in April in Pierce County, accusing him of bizarre, obsessive and paranoid behavior.

In October, she asked to rescind the request under the letterhead: “moorish national republic federal government / moorish divine and national movement of the world … temple of the moon and sun / the true and de jure natural peoples — heirs of the land / ~ i.s.l.a.m. ~ ”

She wrote that she had been trying to cope with a personal loss in March, and the court case had only added to her many challenges in 2020. Financial distress brought on by the pandemic, she wrote, “forced me out of my home with less than 30 days counting to move,” she wrote on Oct. 5.

“i must remind this court,” she wrote, “i have the inalieanable right to share that, my living breathing life and the upcoming holidays with my tribe and i invoke all of my rights, which have been provided to the courts in section 1 … of this moorish government letterhead as statement of truth, as an Indigenous People.”

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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