National expert concerned by Bywater squatters case

National expert concerned by Bywater squatters case

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - There is new information in the case of squatters who took over a Bywater home. The four defendants were in court Wednesday, some defiant and refusing to give their names or rise for the judge.

They also claim to be members of a sovereign citizens group, and that concerns one national expert we talked to.

Police had to move in Tuesday to get the four out. They took over a man's home on North Rampart Street for 11 days. They changed the locks, put up "no trespassing" signs, and even left behind a book titled, "How to Hustle and Win."

And, there's something else: They're members of what they call the Washitah Mu'ur Nation, that's a sovereign citizens group that concerns the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"The FBI has actually described the sovereign citizen movement as a domestic terrorist movement quote un quote," said Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says chances are good that the Washitah Mu'ur Nation and groups like it will continue causing problems here in Louisiana and across the nation.

"These people are liars, they're thieves, they are simply trying to take a home that does not belong to them. Nevertheless, as I say, this is a practice that has spread around the country," said Potok.

As for the defendants in the Bywater case, all four pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges. In court Wednesday, defendant Devin Garner at first wouldn't give his name because he said it was given to him by a corporation. His co-defendant wanted to be addressed as Nickolas "Batman" Adams. And another defendant went by the name "Sub Zero," but we now know he's Louis Hendee.

FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti says there need to be tougher laws on the books to deal with situations like this.

"This may call for the Louisiana Legislature to generate a statute specifically for this kind of behavior. They've got theft of crawfish, I am sure we can come up with something for these guys," he said. "But these guys think they're a little too smart for everybody, and I think we are going to get them to a point in this state - or I hope so - where we generate something where they can't do that here anymore."

And, a word of caution from the Southern Poverty Law Center: If you come across someone claiming to be a sovereign citizen, be careful.

"If people come across something like this, they should not try to intervene," Potok said. "Sovereign citizens have a record of being criminally dangerous, you know. What a person should do is simply call the authorities and stand back."

Three of the four defendants refused to sign peace bonds Wednesday pledging not to return to the Rampart Street property. The judge ordered that none of them be released from jail unless they sign that peace bond.

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