A Marrero couple found in contempt of court last month for refusing to cooperate by invoking a “sovereign citizens” defense against drug and weapons charges apologized Monday and were released from jail pending their upcoming trial.
Larell Sonnier, 27, and Rana Badie, 26, said they were sorry for the March 14 outburst in which they claimed to be corporate entities beyond the reach of the law and refused to step before 24th Judicial District Court Judge Donald Rowan in Gretna.
Sonnier also initially refused to have his hands handcuffed behind his back, saying it would be tantamount to waiving his rights.
Rowan found both in contempt and sent them to the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center. Until then, the couple had been out on bond since shortly after their March 2014 arrest.
Having spent almost a month in jail, the couple apologized to the court, and Rowan ordered their release, said Joe Marino, Badie’s attorney.
Members of the sovereign citizens movement claim to be outside the law, often citing provisions of the Unified Commercial Code, the 1952 act that standardized the laws governing commercial transactions from state to state.
Sonnier and Badie’s adherence to that movement appears to be confined to that one incident, however.
They have motion hearings scheduled for later this month.
According to a police report, investigators with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office identified Sonnier as a marijuana dealer in early 2014 and pulled over a car driven by Sonnier and another man for a traffic violation on March 26 of that year.
Officers said they found just under 200 grams of marijuana and a .45-caliber handgun in the car. They then obtained a warrant to search Sonnier’s apartment, where they found about 350 grams of marijuana and a rifle.
The police report says that while Sonnier refused to give a statement without an attorney present, he nevertheless “spontaneously” said while being booked that the items in the car were his but the drugs and rifle found in the apartment, which he shared with Badie, were not.
The report says Badie came to the station looking for the keys to her car, which Sonnier had been driving, and detectives told her she was under investigation and read her rights to her.
Badie confirmed she was the lease holder of the apartment and that Sonnier had lived with her for three years, but she said she knew nothing about the marijuana or the rifle.
She and Sonnier were then both charged with possession of marijuana and possession of a weapon in the presence of a controlled substance.
Marino, Badie’s attorney, said he hopes Sonnier can reach a plea agreement with prosecutors that would dismiss the charges against Badie, who he said had no involvement with the gun or the drugs. If not, Badie is prepared to go to trial, he said.
“My client went to the detective bureau after a receiving a phone call while at work and went there to retrieve her car keys,” he said. “She was not even present at the apartment when the police searched, and she denied any knowledge of the gun and drugs.”
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