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Hearing delayed for 3 accused of running bogus Masonic police department

The arraignment for three people accused of operating the bogus Masonic Fraternal Police Department -- an ancient police force that claimed to operate in 33 states and Mexico -- was delayed Tuesday until next month.

Tuesday was the first time the trio had been scheduled to appear together in court since being charged in May. Their arraignment was delayed until July 29.

Tonette Hayes, Brandon Kiel and David Henry face misdemeanor charges of falsely representing themselves as police officers, according to the criminal complaint filed by Los Angeles County prosecutors. All three were released from jail after posting bond.

Henry, the self-described chief of the police force that claimed to descend from the Knights Templar, also faces three felony counts of perjury. Kiel, an aide with the California Department of Justice, faces one count of unlawful use of a state ID.

Investigators say that in early February, the three arrived at the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station, two of them wearing police uniforms. They told sheriff’s Capt. Roosevelt Johnson that they were conducting a courtesy call to inform him that their ancient police force was setting up shop in the area.

“It was an odd meeting,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Times. “It just raised my suspicion level.”

Prosecutors have said the whole effort was a ruse, but the purpose remains unclear. Employees at the Backwoods Inn restaurant in Santa Clarita say Henry once arrived there sporting a dark blue police uniform with badges and insignia. He introduced himself as a police chief.

The fictitious police force gained national attention, partly owing to Kiel's employment under state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, along with the group's website and social media accounts that referred to ties to secret societies such as the Freemasons and Illuminati.

David Beltran, a spokesman for the state Department of Justice, said Kiel was placed on paid leave April 30, the date he was arrested. He is paid $67,416 annually as deputy director of community affairs.

Harris has received regular briefings on the case since it began.

“Our office has been cooperating with investigators from the beginning and will continue to do so,” Beltran said last month.

Hayes joined Henry for his first court appearance last month. Outside the courtroom, Hayes declined to comment. Henry, wearing a gold-plated necklace with Masonic imagery, grinned when asked to discuss the criminal charges against him, saying, "I can't talk."

Kiel has not responded to several requests for comment. 

Henry’s attorney, Andrew Altholz, has previously declined to comment on the case. In a prior court proceeding, he objected to media reports about his client.

"I find it to be prejudicial," Altholz told Judge David Walgren, "the way the coverage has gone so far."

Times staff writers Joseph Serna and Javier Panzar contributed to this report.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno on Twitter.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

12:05 p.m. This article was updated with news about the arraignment being postponed.

The first version of this article was published at 6 a.m.

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