An appellate court has been asked to review the 13-month sentence Seth Fontenot received in July for killing one teen and wounding two others, a prison term a Lafayette Parish prosecutor called “illegal and illegally lenient.”
J.N. Prather Jr., an assistant district attorney for Lafayette Parish, said in papers filed with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal that the justice Judge Ed Rubin meted out in the Fontenot didn’t come close to the justice the victims’ families deserved.
Convicted in March of manslaughter in the February 2013 shooting death of Austin Rivault, 15, Fontenot faced up to 40 years in prison. Fontenot also faced up to 10 years for the two aggravated battery convictions for wounding the other teens.
Prather on Wednesday said that 3rd Circuit judges themselves could impose a stiffer sentence on Fontenot, but he acknowledged that direct sentencing by appellate judges is rare.
Prather acknowledged that an order from the appellate court directing Rubin to resentence Fontenot was a long shot.
“I think we owe it to the victims to exhaust all remedies to get an appropriate sentence imposed,” he said. “Thirteen months is a miscarriage of justice.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Fontenot’s attorney, Thomas Guilbeau, had not filed a response to Prather’s pleadings to the 3rd Circuit.
In the early hours of Feb. 10, 2013, Fontenot aimed his 9mm Baretta at a truck he said he believed was carrying thieves who tried to break into his truck. Fontenot told detectives he shot three times at truck to scare its occupants. He told police he didn’t mean to hurt anyone.
Austin Rivault, who was sitting in the rear seat of the truck, was killed when a bullet smashed into the back of his head. Two other 15-year-olds in the front seat were hit but survived. Both boys, now 17, testified at Fontenot’s trial in March that the bullets remained lodged in their bodies.
Rubin’s decision to impose a 13-month sentence, which he did on two occasions, infuriated Rivault’s family and many others in the courtroom. “It’s the same bull that’s been going on,” Kevin Rivault, Austin’s dad, said July 23 after the second sentence hearing.
On July 8, Rubin sentenced Fontenot to three years in prison, with all but 13 months suspended. Rubin also ordered Fontenot to two years of probation once he’s released.
Everyone was back in Rubin’s court on July 23 to “correct” the original sentence because prison time meted out in a crime of violence cannot be suspended. So, at that hearing, Rubin peeled away the 23 months he suspended in the original sentence, and didn’t impose probation time on Fontenot.
Prather, in his argument to 3rd Circuit justices, said Rubin was ethically and procedurally wrong in handing down his sentence: A corrected sentence should have added on the 23 suspended months in the original sentence and also the two years of probation, making Fontenot’s jail term five years.
Prather on Wednesday said getting Fontenot resentenced to the five years he called for in the court document was also a long-shot.