A Marrero couple who caused a disturbance in a Jefferson Parish courtroom in March by invoking a “sovereign citizen” defense — only to apologize after a month in jail — apparently have decided to go all-in with the unorthodox, and perennially unsuccessful, legal strategy.
Larell Sonnier, 27, and Rana Badie, 26, failed to show up Monday for a hearing in 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna and were ordered held without bail by Judge Donald Rowan Jr. First, though, authorities have to find them.
The couple briefly disrupted Rowan’s courtroom in March by initially refusing to be handcuffed by bailiffs and claiming to be beyond the law when they appeared on drug and weapons charges.
On Monday, Badie’s attorney, Joe Marino, filed a motion to withdraw as counsel after his client filed a motion to send the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court, an indication she’s returned to a “sovereign citizen” defense.
Sonnier filed the same motion, along with one to remove Davidson Ehle as his attorney, though Ehle asked to be kept on for the time being to prepare for his departure.
“Sovereign citizenship” is a doctrine that emerged from American separatist movements. It claims the U.S. government has no legal jurisdiction over individuals. The theory, which stems from an act standardizing the nation’s legal code in the 1950s, is occasionally invoked in court, and ready-to-file documents are available for download from the Internet.
Police arrested Sonnier in early 2014, saying he was caught with 200 grams of marijuana and a .45-caliber handgun. They later searched the apartment he shared with Badie and found 350 grams of pot and a rifle, arresting her as well.
On Monday, Ehle asked Rowan not to rule on Sonnier’s motion to drop him as his counsel until Sonnier appears in person to make the request. He said there is a particularly complicated round of motions coming up, and he’d like Sonnier to at least “have a chance.”
Marino told Rowan he’d warned Badie after the last incident that she needed to follow his advice and let him file the legal motions.
Rowan ordered attachments issued for the couple’s arrest, noting that both had been given their notice to appear in person at the April hearing at which they apologized to the court.
“I don’t have a problem with them exercising their rights,” Rowan said of Sonnier’s and Badie’s motions. “I have a problem with them not showing up.”
Marino, who has said his client had nothing to do with any crimes alleged to have been committed by her boyfriend, said outside the courtroom that he’s confident he could have gotten the charges against Badie dismissed.
“She has a winnable case,” he said. “They don’t have any evidence against her. All the evidence is against him.”
Sonnier and Badie were still at large as of Monday afternoon.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.