A man and woman claiming they are Moorish nationalists who were arrested twice for breaking into D.C. homes and claiming they were the rightful owners face new criminal charges but were also released Tuesday.
Antonio Caldwell, who also goes by the name Antonio Bey, and Mia Waddell were arrested Wednesday night and charged with unlawful entry for moving into a vacant row house on Lanier Place NW in D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood, police said. They said they have sovereign rights to the property, police said.
Neighbors told News4 they saw a U-Haul truck and someone taking furniture inside the house, which had been empty and under construction for some time.
The couple put a sign in the window claiming the house now belongs to them and they changed the locks, so police had to break in to get the couple out of the home.
The couple previously tried to claim rights to a mansion up for sale near Rock Creek Park Nov. 8. No one lives in the house, but the owners live nearby, and when one of the owners received an alert about the alarm going off, she rushed over expecting to find a real estate agent. Instead, she found a man and woman who claimed they owned the land because their ancestors were the original inhabitants.
The man and woman can be heard repeatedly saying on security video they were Moorish nationalists who had a sovereign right to the home. Surveillance video shows the man and woman breaking into the home, then taking down the for sale sign before the homeowner responded to the alarm.
Caldwell and Waddell were charged with misdemeanor unlawful entry and released pending a court date and ordered to stay away from the home.
They failed to appear for the court date and were charged with failure to appear after the arrest last week.
Prosecutors added four new charges Tuesday, including fraud. They argued the couple is likely to try squatting again despite the additional charges.
But the judge said since they didn't have a prior record he would not keep them in jail pending a trial.
During Tuesday’s hearing, another couple claiming to be friends of the suspects stood up in court and tried to speak to the judge but were told to sit down and remain quite.
Caldwell and Waddell promised the judge they would return to court next week and would not enter any homes they are not permitted to be inside under D.C. law.
A similar incident took place in 2013 when Lamont Butler moved into a vacant mansion in Bethesda, Maryland. He said his religious beliefs as a member of the Moorish Nation entitled him to the home. The police disagreed.
Moorish American Nationals believe black Americans are descendants of an ancient Moroccan empire. Most members are law-abiding citizens, but a splinter group believes their ancestors were here before the U.S. government so many federal and local laws don’t apply to them.
"Today, some people are under the misconception and erroneous notion that the Moorish Science Temple of America, Inc. is a place where one can learn how to forgo their civic duty of paying taxes, obtain their 'straw-man,' and assert their so-called sovereignty, etc," the Moorish Science Temple of America said in a statement in July 2015. "We assertively declare that the Moorish Science Temple of America, Inc. is in no form or fashion a Sovereign Citizen Movement or a Tax Protestor Movement, consequently our teachings are diametrically opposed to that ideology."
Caldwell and Waddell are not affiliated with the Moorish Science Temple of America, which is a legitmate religion with temples across the country.