The confusion started almost immediately after four people accused of occupying a Bywater house without the owner’s permission made their first appearance in court Wednesday.
The first man announced that his booking name was fake because it had been given to him by a corporation. Another defendant’s name was announced as “Sub Zero” — the name of a character in the video game franchise Mortal Kombat — drawing snickers from the room.
By the end of the hearing, Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet had set bail for two of the four defendants accused of occupying the house in the 3400 block of North Rampart Street for about a week. An understanding of the squatters’ motives, however, seemed more elusive than ever.
Signs posted at the house during the occupation appeared to claim allegiance to the Washitaw Nation, a black separatist group that claims independence from state and federal authorities. When Charbonnet asked the defendants whether they considered themselves “sovereign citizens,” however, all four appeared to mumble no.
The defendants all declined representation from the Orleans Public Defenders Office.
Under questioning from Charbonnet, they offered differing levels of cooperation to the court.
Both Sub Zero — later identified by the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office as 25-year-old Louis Hendee — and Nickolas Adams, who Charbonnet said is also known as Batman, had refused to give police officers their names Tuesday.
They maintained their defiance Wednesday by indicating they would not be willing to sign court orders ordering them to stay away from the Bywater house.
Charbonnet stated that neither Hendee nor Adams would be released until they sign the order.
“I guess you’ll just have to stay in jail,” Charbonnet told Adams.
Two other suspects, 24-year-old Devin Garner and 18-year-old Dana Thornton, seemed to be more willing to compromise.
Charbonnet set bail for Thornton at $1,500 on a single count of criminal trespassing. She set bail for Garner, the defendant who told the court that his booking name had been given to him by a corporation, at $2,500.
Several of the defendants stated there were “no injured parties” in the case and proclaimed their innocence.
The house’s owner, Fredrick Hines, said Tuesday that the occupation had aggravated both him and his neighbors. He expressed hope they would receive the maximum possible punishment.