MILWAUKEE - A man who plays Judas in the traveling Broadway show of "Jesus Christ Superstar" was arrested in Milwaukee Tuesday, charged with taking part in the U.S. Capitol siege on Jan. 6 alongside members of the extremist group the Oath Keepers.
James Beeks, 49, of Orlando was arrested by the FBI at his hotel in Milwaukee Tuesday, Nov. 23. He made an initial court appearance before a federal magistrate judge later that day, charged by complaint with unlawful entry to the Capitol and obstruction of Congress. He was released pending further proceedings, according to the US Attorney's office in Washington, D.C.
The charges were filed under seal in Washington D.C. federal court and unsealed after Beeks' arrest in Wisconsin. On Wednesday, Magistrate Judge Steven Dries stayed a decision to return his passport until after the holiday weekend, following an emergency motion filed by the government.
According to court filings, authorities knew Beeks – who performs under the stage name of "James T. Justis" – would be in Milwaukee on Tuesday, the first day of performances for the traveling Broadway show at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. The show runs from Nov. 23-28, according to its online tour schedule.
Beeks was still listed as "Judas" as of Tuesday night, hours after the performance began. He did not perform in the production and the role was filled by another performer, a spokesperson said, adding Beeks has since been suspended, indefinitely.
"The touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar confirmed that James Beeks (a.k.a. James T. Justis) is suspended from the company indefinitely pending the outcome of the hearing," said DJ Martin, the marketing and communications director for the national tour of the musical. "He will not perform during the show’s run at the Marcus Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee."
A message sent to Andrew Lloyd Webber's production company, A Really Useful Group, was not immediately returned. Beek's photo on the website for Jesus Christ Superstar has since been removed as of Wednesday morning.
A YouTube page for Beeks, referenced in the court documents, lists him as one of the country's best Michael Jackson tribute artists.
"Beeks was part of a mob of people, including some who attacked law enforcement. At 2:38 pm., the doors were breached, and the group stormed into the Capitol. Once inside the Capitol, the group split up. Half of them, including Beeks, tried to push their way through a line of law enforcement officers guarding a hallway that led to the Senate chamber," said the Washington D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office.
Court documents say Beeks paid dues to the Oath Keepers days before the attack and joined up with other group members prior to entering the capitol in a tactical formation, wearing body armor and helmets. Beeks, whose face was covered, was wearing a unique jacket from Michael Jackson's 1987 "BAD" tour, which helped authorities identify him.
"Prior to the confrontation, Beeks joined with a group of Oath Keepers while walking from the Ellipse to the Capitol," said the U.S. Attorney's Office in a release. "Unlike the camouflage-combat attire of many individuals in the group, he was wearing a Michael Jackson ‘BAD’ world tour jacket and a black helmet, and he was carrying what appeared to be a homemade black shield."
A message left for a federal public defender listed in the case was not immediately returned.
This past August, a federal grand jury brought down a superseding indictment of conspiracy, obstruction, and aiding and abetting against 17 members of the right-wing militia that took part in the tactical formations and breach of the Capitol. At least four additional members have pleaded guilty in connection to the attack, including a person that cooperated with investigators in identifying Beeks, according to court filings.
In the emergency filing Wednesday before the Washington D.C. district's chief judge, prosecutors indicated that an indictment is forthcoming and anticipates the case will be assigned to the judge handling the case of another Oath Keeper, Thomas Caldwell, indicted in connection to the events of Jan. 6.
According to the emergency motion to amend his release conditions, Beeks never made his flight from Orlando to Milwaukee on Monday, Nov. 22 – instead opting to drive the more than 1,200 miles. This decision came after Beeks was under FBI surveillance at the time. Court filings say Beeks notified the production company he intended to drive to the remaining tour dates, the next being in Toronto on Nov. 30. The showrunners told the government it planned to discuss Beeks transportation plans when he arrived in Milwaukee, but he was arrested before that could take place.
Beeks also declined to say when he would return to Orlando when contacted by an FBI agent during the drive to Milwaukee.
The production company also told the government, according to filings, that Beeks had recently said he is a "sovereign citizen" – anti-government extremists who believe they don't have to pay taxes or answer to authority, be it the courts or law enforcement.
Court documents say the FBI found two firearm holsters in Beeks' hotel room when he was arrested, but that Beeks said he left the weapons with his father in Florida.
Conditions of his release are no contact with Oath Keepers and co-defendants, not to consume alcohol, possess a firearm, or use encrypted messaging applications.
Dries is scheduled to make a ruling on returning Beeks' passport on Monday. Beeks has a video initial appearance before a Washington D.C. federal judge set for Dec. 2.