Skip to main content

Sovereign citizen murder trial set for October

A judge has set an October trial date for one of two sovereign citizens charged with murder in the shooting deaths of two Louisiana sheriff’s deputies six years ago.

Brian Lyn Smith, 29, is one of seven people originally arrested in connection with the August 16, 2012, fatal shootings in a trailer park west of New Orleans.

The case sparked renewed national interest in antigovernment sovereign citizens and, in particular, the threat they pose to law enforcement officers everywhere.

At a hearing last Friday, Judge Sterling Snowdy of Louisana’s 40th Judicial District set an October 22 trial date for Smith, the Times-Picayune reported.

Smith’s friend, Kyle David Joekel, 34, also is scheduled to stand trial later this year, but a date hasn’t been set.

Their pending murder trials — protracted because of assorted legal issues — were moved to St. Martinville, Louisiana, more than 100 miles from where deputies Jeremy Triche and Brandon Nielsen were fatally shot and two other deputies were wounded.

It occurred, authorities said, after Brian Smith allegedly shot an off-duty deputy, working as a security guard at a refinery, before fleeing to the Scenic Riverview Mobile Home Park in LaPlace, Louisiana, where the subsequent shootout with deputies occurred.

For his role, Smith’s father, Terry Lyn Smith, 52, was convicted of murder in 2016 and was sentenced to life in prison. Another son, Derrick Smith, 28, was released on probation last year after serving five years in prison on an accessory charge.

Terry Smith’s wife, Chanel Skains, and Brian Smith’s girlfriend, Britney Keith, both have pleaded guilty to accessory charges, but haven’t been sentenced. Charges were dropped against a seventh defendant, Teniecha Bright, described as Joekel’s girlfriend.

Authorities described Joekel and the elder Smith along with his sons, Brian and Terry Smith, as sovereign citizens.

Besides refusing to get required driving and vehicle registrations, sovereign citizens believe most laws don’t apply to them because of their sovereignty, and they frequently display open hostility to law enforcement officers.

After the fatal gun battle, authorities said they recovered an arsenal of weapons from three camper trailers where the Smith clan and Joekel were living. The seized weapons included an AR-15 and two AK-47 assault rifles, assorted handguns, a shotgun and two partially assembled pipe bombs.

Louisiana Department of Corrections officials described Brian Smith as an “avowed Sovereign Citizen,” claiming that “writings found in his jail cell included threats to harm law enforcement officers and their families,” the newspaper reported.

Comments, suggestions or tips? Send them to and follow us on Twitter @Hatewatch.