LORAIN — An Elyria man who says he is a priest tried to invoke the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to move his trial to federal court after he was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and obstructing official business.
James Utsey, who said he has changed his name to Priest Ilataza, appeared Wednesday in Lorain Municipal Court. He objected to the hearing, saying his charges are a civil rights matter and read the lengthy Civil Rights Act of 1866 to request the case be moved.
Anthony Giardini, who was filling in for the city judges, noted Utsey’s request but denied it, stating that all offenses occurring in the city of Lorain must be heard before a city court.
Utsey also is facing charges in Elyria Municipal Court.
On May 7, Utsey was issued a citation for drug paraphernalia after police reported that they found drugs and guns in the man’s apartment. Police arrested and charged Anthony Williams Jr., 38, for weapons under disability and an outstanding bench warrant and James Lemroyal, 48, for an outstanding bench warrant.
The three men told police they were priests and said the guns belonged to the church and the marijuana was used for religious purposes.
Utsey told The Chronicle-Telegram in an earlier interview that the arrest warrant was “fraudulent” in that it didn’t list the name on the original arrest report, “Priest Ilataza.”
Utsey said his name was changed to Priest Ilataza through common law, and his birth name and Social Security number were given as a “sin offering” to the church.
On July 17, police said Utsey refused to provide his name to officers and was carrying a weapon.
Officer Miguel Baez testified that Utsey had a warrant for contempt of court and, when questioned, refused to provide him his name saying that he “pled the fifth.” Baez said Utsey was asked to take a seat in his police car, and when Baez attempted to handcuff Utsey, Utsey said he had a weapon, later identified as a Glock 20 handgun, in the waistband of his pants.
Utsey’s court-appointed lawyer, Karri Peck, withdrew from counsel because Utsey said he did not want to sign an oath. Utsey told the court he disagreed with Peck’s actions.
“My objections more or less come to how my counsel, or previous counsel, handled the situation as far as not wanting to represent me,” he said after the hearing.
Utsey represented himself during the preliminary hearing but did not question witnesses.
Utsey did not provide any evidence or witness testimony during the hearing, and Giardini determined the case would be bound over to a Lorain County grand jury for the carrying concealed weapon charge, and the obstructing official business case would be heard in Lorain Municipal Court at 1 p.m. Aug. 21.
Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or email@example.com.