Defense’s odd ploy in Drug case fails
Defense’s odd ploy in drug case fails Man caught with nearly nine pounds of marijuana last year claimed – unsuccessfully – on Monday that the Winchester Circuit Court held no jurisdiction over him because of a 200-year-old treaty with Morocco. Damien Wilson, 24, representing himself, told Judge John J. Wetsel Jr. and a jury that he is descended from Moors and a member of Islamic sect the Moorish Science Temple. He said a 1786 treaty concerning U.S. treatment of Moors supersedes the court’s jurisdiction. Wilson – who calls himself Hakeem Mostafa El Bey – also tried to subpoena the state attorney general and threatened to fine Wetsel for trademark infringement.
Wetsel disagreed with the defendant’s interpretation of the law, and barred Wilson – originally from Texas – from presenting the jury with documents concerning the treaty and his Moorish roots, saying they were not relevant.
“Put that in all caps – NOT RELEVANT,” said Wetsel. “Moor, Martian, Moroccan, to the Commonwealth of Virginia, it makes no difference. If you commit a crime here, you can be prosecuted.”
In previous hearings, Wetsel had ruled that Wilson’s claims about the unconstitutionality of the trial were not valid.
The jury was similarly unconvinced by Wilson’s defense, taking 20 minutes to find him guilty of distribution of marijuana, possession of more than five pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm while in possession of more than a pound of marijuana.
“Justice has not been afforded to me whatsoever,” Wilson told the jury. “You can’t rule on a case if one side isn’t allowed to present their side.”
Wilson was arrested at his home on Honeysuckle Lane Nov. 17. Corey Hall, an informant working with the Northwestern Regional Drug Task Force and a frequent customer of Wilson, told police that he had seen about 10 pounds of marijuana inside the house. Investigators used that information to obtain a search warrant for Wilson’s home.
In a closet in his bedroom, they found a suitcase full of large plastic bags containing marijuana, totaling 8pounds.They also found a 9mm pistol hidden in a boot near the suitcase.According to city police Detective R.L. Bower, Wilson said after his arrest that he had been selling 10 pounds of marijuana a week for more than a year, buying it wholesale for about $1,000 a pound.
According to Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Derek Aston, Wilson did not mention the Moorish Science Temple or challenge the court’s jurisdiction during his arrest or in General District Court, where he waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
But after being indicted by a city grand jury in February, Wilson came to court with a new defense and demanding to be called by a new name – Hakeem Mustofa El Bey.In several hearings since, and at the start of Monday’s hearing, Wilson and Wetsel clashed over his name, which is still legally Wilson. At the start of Monday’s proceeding, any time Wetsel used the name “Damien Wilson,” the defendant would stand up and object. Wilson even said he would fine Wetsel for trademark infringement every time the judge said “Damien Wilson.” Wetsel eventually told Wilson that if he kept objecting to his name, he would be placed in a holding cell for contempt of court. “Your objection has already been noted,” the judge said. During the trial, Wilson refused to respond to questions concerning his alleged drug-dealing, citing the Fifth Amendment guarantee against self-incrimination each time he was asked.
Instead, he said using marijuana was part of his religion and that the 1786 treaty meant that all Moors do not come under U.S, jurisdiction. “I have not consented to these proceedings,” he said.
After Wilson’s conviction, the jury recommended that he be sentenced to five years each on the possession and gun charges, and 12 months and a $2,500 fine on the gun charge.
Wilson said after the jury’s verdict that he was not surprised by the result, and that he expected to receive better treatment before the U.S. Court of Appeals, where has already filed an appeal. Wilson also said he has filed a federal lawsuit against Wetsel and Aston in U.S. District Court. Wilson is scheduled to be sentenced Sept 7. He is being held in the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center without bond.