Since her common-law husband and his son died 11 months ago in a gunfight with police after killing two officers, Donna Lee Wray has issued angry threats, hurled epithets at reporters and accused police of a cover-up. She has even tried to charge Hatewatch millions of dollars for the use of her “copyrighted name” – a claim based on the bizarre ideology of the anti-government “sovereign citizen” movement.
Now, Wray is suing the police department in West Memphis, Ark., for what she says was the “torture killings” of Jerry and Joe Kane, father and son sovereign citizens who attacked police after they were pulled over on an interstate on May 20, 2010. Sgt. Brandon Paudert and Officer Bill Evans were shot and killed in the attack that was captured in tragic detail on the officers’ dashboard camera. The Kanes were later killed in a shootout with police after being cornered in a shopping center parking lot.
Working with West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert, father of one of the slain officers, the SPLC produced a training video designed to help other law enforcement officers recognize sovereign citizens when they encounter them.
The sovereign citizens movement is a well-established part of the American radical right. Adherents typically believe they are not bound by government laws and do not have to pay taxes. Jerry Kane spent the last two years of his life giving seminars promoting the idea that many people do not have to repay mortgage loans. Many sovereigns also subscribe to so-called “redemption” theory – the completely ridiculous notion that people can escape their debts with the proper mix of court filings.
Paudert told Hatewatch that he wasn’t worried about the lawsuit, and that he wasn’t “going to take this lying down.”
“It’s a frivolous suit,” Paudert said. “It’ll go nowhere. They’ve done all the damage they could do to me by taking Brandon and Bill.”
The lawsuit isn’t Wray’s first attack on the police department. Last July, she issued a meandering press release that accused police of “massacr[ing]” the Kanes, “obliterat[ing] evidence” and engaging in a “COVER UP.” She claims the allegation that the Kanes were extremists is “ridiculous” and that they were not antigovernment. “They were all for government,” Wray wrote. “Real Government. I have evidence and proof that the West Memphis Police Department is a private company … clearly a private for profit business.”
A judge in the Middle District of Florida has shown no interest in giving weight to Wray’s claims. This week, U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara issued two orders that determined, unsurprisingly, that Wray’s lawsuit failed to state the factual basis for her claims. "Her complaint is nothing more than a nonsensical recitation of various state and federal Constitutional articles and amendments, federal statutory laws, and international treaties," one order reads. The judge requested a simple description of Wray’s claim; otherwise, he will dismiss it on May 2.