Marrero couple skips court hearing, re-embraces ‘sovereign citizen’ defense _lowres

Larell Sonnier and Rana Badie

Rana Badie will have some additional downtime to reconsider the legal strategy she and Larell Sonnier employed in a Gretna courtroom earlier this month.

The judge who found them both in contempt for showing up late on March 13 and claiming to be “sovereign citizens” beyond the reach of the law has denied a request from Badie’s lawyer to schedule Badie’s contempt hearing sooner than the original April 11 date.

Attorney Joe Marino filed a request to move up her hearing, explaining that Badie, 26, is studying to be a surgical technician at Herzing University in Kenner. She’s scheduled to graduate in December but is in jeopardy of losing the semester as she sits in jail without bail for contempt of court, Marino wrote.

His motion, however, was denied by 24th Judicial District Court Judge Donald Rowan Jr.

Badie and Sonnier are both charged with having a rifle while in possession of marijuana; Sonnier faces an additional charge of possessing a .45-caliber handgun with marijuana.

They were set to stand trial on March 13 but, despite having sat through more than a dozen earlier hearings without incident, decided to invoke a legal doctrine often used by members of the sovereign citizens movement.

Sovereign citizens claim people are corporate entities that are above the law, citing provisions of the Unified Commercial Code, the 1952 act that standardized the laws governing commercial transactions from state to state.

There do not appear to be any instances where such an argument has worked in court.

Locally, a group of squatters recently claimed the legal right to occupy a man’s Bywater vacation home, while a Harvey couple is awaiting trial for renting out homes they didn’t own to unsuspecting elderly women.

In 2014, a former shipyard worker declaring himself to be a sovereign citizen was arrested after subjecting co-workers, Westwego police and a state judge to a barrage of commercial liens and letters demanding more than $100 million, much of it for using his name without permission.

In 2012, two St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies were shot and killed in an ambush involving several men claiming to be sovereign citizens.

For Sonnier and Badie, their claim of sovereign citizenry succeeded only in creating a minor spectacle in court and netting them the additional charge of contempt.

The couple’s trial date has not yet been reset.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.