The bankruptcy hearings of the Giordano’s Pizza chain in Chicago took a strange turn this week, when a sovereign citizen was thrown out of the courtroom after he made vague threats and caused what the judge called a “sideshow.”
Marshall Home, a sovereign citizen from Arizona, had intervened in the case by filing a claim to a $150 million lien against Giordiano’s, which Philip Martino, the pizza chain’s trustee, says is fraudulent.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Pamela Hollis tossed Home from the hearings after he popped in to testify Tuesday. As the Tribune reports:
Then the judge asked Home to answer questions under oath, reminding him that what he said could have serious consequences.
“And vice versa,” Home said.
“Who are you threatening?” the judge asked Home.
After Home continued interrupting Judge Hollis, he was escorted out by three security officers.
The case centers around Giordano’s owner John Apostolou, who was forced to give up his control of the pizza chain, which he’s owned since 1988, after his businesses fell into $45.5 million worth of debt. The chain has been under bankruptcy protection since February, but Apostolou only lost control after he submitted some court filings in the style of the sovereign citizen movement. One filing declared that Apostolous and his wife are “American Freemen, free inhabitants of the Illinois state, and we find it impossible to obtain State declared Legal Tender at Law.” They also said they don’t believe in U.S. currency or the legal system, typical beliefs of sovereign citizens, who generally consider almost all branches of the U.S. government to be illegitimate.
The Department of Justice asked the court to appoint a trustee to handle the business soon after the filings.
Earlier this year, Home filed a petition in Arizona seeking to declare the state of Arizona and U.S. government bankrupt. The Apostolous were among dozens of signatories, whose names were included in the petition. On May 18, the Arizona bankruptcy court dismissed the case and declared that Home was a “vexatious litigant.”
Home calls himself the Chairman of Arizona’s Independent Rights Party, which offers legal help and “Foreclosure Recovery Services.” The site states: “Experience to our party members has shown that lawyers should not be allowed in our Courts nor our government.”
An August 2010 report by the Anti-Defamation League on the sovereign citizens describes how some sovereigns have sought to take advantage of the mortgage crisis by claiming they can help people save their homes from foreclosures — for a fee, of course.
Apostolou, for his part, testified that he hoped Home would help him with the bankruptcy, and that “he had signed documents for Home but had never borrowed or lent him any money.” Apostolou also said he and his wife didn’t understand what they were signing. But, he told the Tribune of Home: “He’s a man who cares about people, who helps people save their homes from illegal foreclosures.”