By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
Batiste was making it up as he went along, and his informants helped fill in the blanks. Batiste had no real plans, no know-how, no real intent — at least none that the government proved. He testified, for instance, that at one point he ran to a 7-Eleven to get magazines about guns so he could sound like he knew what he was talking about.
He never came close to carrying out any attacks. The only weapons found by the FBI were from the pre-industrial age, things like ninja swords. Perhaps he planned to chop down the Sears Tower with them.
If his philosophy didn't derive from Osama bin Laden, then where did it come from?
The answer is as strange and perplexing as the defendant himself. Two of his spiritual advisers have names that sound as if they came from Star Wars movies — Master Althea and Sultan Khan Bey.
The staff-carrying, enrobed Althea was a self-styled street minister who blended Christianity, Judaism, and Islam to form something of a fundamentalist catchall religion. The bedrock of the Universal Divine Saviors, however, was a belief in the Bible and Jesus.
"He taught me personally that, in order to walk a righteous path, first thing you need not to do is make a mockery of people," Batiste testified. "Don't laugh at people that are handicapped. Don't laugh at people that are dumb, that cannot speak. And don't laugh at people that are blind. Help those people."
Bey is the flamboyant, fez-wearing leader of something called the Moorish Science Temple in Chicago. That religion is based on the idea that African-Americans are descended from Moors and are therefore Muslims. Bey was born Charles Stewart, and he has a long criminal record, including a rape conviction.
Throw in the regimentation of the Guardian Angels, which Batiste was part of back in the early '90s, and touches of freemasonry, Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism and you're on your way to understanding the man's bizarre ethos.
And he couldn't hold it together. His life began falling apart when Bey flew down from Chicago to visit his temple in April 2006. The sultan, as he was routinely called in court, didn't like Batiste's dealings with what Bey termed the "Arabian or Nigerian mafia" and immediately suspected they were federal agents.
The sultan was enraged when he saw that Batiste was teaching the Bible instead of the Koran. He loathed the influence that Althea had on his pupil. He reacted by virtually taking over the temple and charging Batiste with treason and insubordination under Moorish law.
The sultan got so out of sorts about the situation that he fired a gun at a rare remaining Batiste supporter. It led to his arrest on weapons charges on May 5, 2006, six weeks before the FBI arrested the Liberty City Seven.
Batiste, meanwhile, was left destitute and paranoid. His religious group no longer existed. His brothers abandoned him.
"I wanted to speak with [informant Abbas] to let him know that, basically, I'm out of the deal," Batiste testified. "It was never like what I expected from the very beginning. Everything is just going crazy. I mean, this deal that I had between him and me, I involved this in my life. Because I involved this in my life, it's caused a lot of discomfort, and it's really basically broke up my religious society that I had been building."
To feed his kids, he pawned the camera that the informants had given him for $56. Not long thereafter, the FBI finally busted Batiste, who was already a broken man.