No Moorish Defense
WINCHESTER- A city man convicted on drug distribution charges in July has asked for a new trial.He says he received bad legal advice from a website before the first proceeding. Because of that advice, 24-year-old Damien Wilson said, he rejected all of the court’s offers to appoint an attorney for him.He said throughout his July 26 trial in Winchester Circuit Court that he was descended from Moors and that a 200-year-old treaty with Morocco gives him immunity from U.S. law.
Before the trial, Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. urged Wilson – who was born in Texas – to obtain an attorney and told him that the treaty had nothing to do with his case.
“Put that in all caps – NOT RELEVANT,” Wetsel said during the trial. “Moor, Martian, Moroccan, to the Commonwealth of Virginia it makes no difference. If you commit a crime here, you can be prosecuted.” A Circuit Court jury took just 20 minutes of deliberation to find Wilson guilty of several drug and gun charges and recommend a sentence of 11 years in prison. His bond was revoked and he was sent to jail to wait for his final sentencing hearing.
Now, Wilson has reversed his stance, hired an attorney, and filed a motion asking for a new trial. The motion, filed by Wilson’s attorney Chong C. Park of Leesburg, states that his client was victimized by the website of “The Aboriginal Law Firm,” which offers legal advice through videos and live chats for a fee.
“The Aboriginal Law Firm, or any of its members, are not attorneys licensed to practice in any jurisdiction” states Park’s motion. The motion states that Wilson trusted the advice of the website because it is closely associated with the Moorish Science Temple of America, a religious organization of which he is a member.
“Mr. Wilson unfortunately took every bit of the Aboriginal Law Firm’s advice, including the advice to disregard any other potential viable defenses and assert the meritless jurisdictional defense based on the Morocco Treaty of 1787,” wrote Park. Wilson’s involvement with the court system began Nov. 17, when was arrested at his home on Honeysuckle Lane.Acting on information from an informant, investigators searched his home and found a suitcase containing eight pounds of marijuana in large plastic bags and a 9mm pistol hidden in a boot.
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 per pound. Though his motion states that Wilson joined the Moorish Science Temple before his arrest, city Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Derek Aston said that at preliminary hearings Wilson did not mention the Moorish Science Temple or challenge the court’s jurisdiction.
But after being indicted by a city grand jury in February, Wilson came to court with his new defense strategy and demanded to be called by a new name – Hakeem Mustofa El Bey.
At his trial, Wilson not only said the court had no jurisdiction over him, he objected every time Wetsel used the name “Damien Wilson” instead of Hakeem Mustofa El Bey. Wilson even said he would fine Wetsel for trademark infringement, until the judge threatened to have him put in a holding cell for contempt of court. Wilson’s latest filings make no mention of objections to his name.
During the trial, he refused to respond to questions concerning his alleged drug-dealing, citing the Fifth Amendment guarantee against self-incrimination each time he was asked. In the motion for a new trial, Park agrees that Wetsel made “no error” when he rejected Wilson’s arguments about jurisdiction, and calls his client’s decisions “foolish.”
However, Park argues that Wilson was unduly influenced by “the combination of religion, sense of nationalism that is taught by the Moorish Temple, and the illegal legal counsel he received from the Aboriginal Law Firm.”
The motion is scheduled to be argued Tuesday, which was originally scheduled as the date of Wilson’s sentencing. He is being held in the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center without bond.