ORLANDO, Fla. – Two years after joining members of the Oath Keepers at the U.S. Capitol, an Orlando man is preparing to defend himself in court that could put him in prison.
James Beeks, also known as James Justis, was arrested on Nov. 24, 2021, at a theater in Minneapolis, where he was starring as Judas in the national touring company of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
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The 49-year-old professional actor and singer was charged with six counts, which include conspiracy to defraud the U.S., tampering with a witness, destruction of government property and civil disorder.
Now, less than one month away from jury selection in his trial, Beeks told News 6 he is not the man that has been portrayed in much of the coverage.
“Innocent before proven guilty,” he said. “If I get a chance to get a fair trial, I would hopefully be exonerated in this.”
Beeks sat down with News 6 at a picnic table at Lake Eola, where he explained he joined the Oath Keepers group two weeks before Jan. 6, 2021.
He said his adoptive father was a former member of law enforcement, and he was looking for a group that would enable him to give back.
“I didn’t know anybody -- any of those people before, and I didn’t associate with them after it,” he said. “I thought they were going to be helpful, you know? Maybe I should do a little bit more research.”
He also said he is neither Democrat nor Republican.
“I’m not – how should I say it – so die-hard on one side, you know? I see a big spectrum of issues that on both sides that are, you know, right or wrong,” he said.
When he was asked why he was in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, Beeks did not want to discuss many details.
“I don’t want to get too specific in the case, because anything I say can be used against me,” he said. “(Working security) was the intention to go and be helpful -- to be a peacekeeper. So, that’s as far as I’ll go with that.
“I don’t condone any violence or anything. I wasn’t there to overthrow the government or anything like that,” he said. “I’m just a man that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Beeks said his life has been deeply impacted by his arrest.
He said he has appeared on Broadway five times in productions that included “Kinky Boots,” “Aida,” “Ragtime” and “Smokey Joe’s Café”
He said he was proud of his performance in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
“I’m bummed that I didn’t get to do it here. It was at Dr. Phillips last June, and that was supposed to be me,” he said. “But you know, with all the stuff that surrounding this, I wasn’t able to do that.”
He said he fears his entertainment career may now be over.
Beeks is being tried in Washington, D.C, alongside six other members of the Oath Keepers, including Connie Meggs, whose husband was convicted of seditious conspiracy last year.
Beeks said he will represent himself in his trial, and he has asked the judge to try him separately.
He is raising money online to help in his legal defense.
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