As prosecutors and defense attorneys furiously file motions written to sway Judge Ed Rubin before he resentences Seth Fontenot on Thursday, Fontenot’s victim seems to be weighing in too.
On a Lamar Advertising digital billboard at the intersection of Camellia Boulevard and Johnston Street, a photo of Austin Rivault accompanies a message: “Dear Judge Rubin, Please Get It Right This Time — Austin Rivault and Concerned Citizens of Acadiana.”
The photo of Rivault, who died Feb. 10, 2013, after Fontenot shot the teen, is being viewed by thousands of motorists each day since at least Monday.
It was unclear Tuesday who paid for the sign or how long the ad has towered above Johnston Street traffic. The Acadiana Advocate’s calls to Lamar Advertising’s Lafayette Office on Tuesday were not returned.
According to the Lamar website, billboard advertising costs anywhere between $250 and $900 a day depending on the length of the contract.
Doug Truxillo, a Lafayette attorney who has acted as a spokesman for the Rivault family, said Austin Rivault’s parents, Kevin and Renee Rivault, did not pay for the billboard.
Truxillo said he called the Rivaults on Monday to inform them about the billboard.
“The Rivaults remain shocked and dismayed,” Truxillo said, referring to the original sentence Rubin gave Fontenot.
Fontenot killed Austin Rivault by firing his 9 mm Beretta three times into a truck that carried Rivault and two other 15-year-olds, who were wounded. Fontenot told police he believed the boys were breaking into his truck. A jury in March found him guilty of manslaughter and also of two counts of aggravated battery, instead of the original charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
Louisiana law sets the sentence for manslaughter at zero to 40 years in prison. Rubin opted for the lighter side by sentencing Fontenot to three years at hard labor, then whittled down the jail time by suspending all but 13 months of the sentence. Rubin gave identical sentences on the aggravated battery convictions — three years with all but 13 months suspended. All three sentences were to run concurrently, meaning Fontenot’s jail time would be 13 months, or fewer than 13 months if he got out early for good behavior.
Announcing the sentence, Rubin cited the trial jury’s finding that Fontenot did not mean to kill Austin Rivault or injure the other two teens. Rubin also cited psychologists’ testimony that Fontenot’s 18-year-old brain at the time was immature and not developed enough to make responsible decisions while wielding a handgun.
After the sentence, Assistant District Attorney J.N. Prather sought an appellate court decision on the sentence, which he called illegal.
And last week, Fontenot’s attorneys, Thomas Guilbeau and Katherine Guillot, acknowledged that Rubin’s sentence had technical problems: The judge erred by suspending a portion of a sentence handed down in a crime of violence.
So Rubin agreed to set another sentencing hearing.
Guilbeau said he will ask Rubin to do away with the suspended portion of the three-year sentence and to simply sentence Fontenot to 13 months in prison.
On Tuesday, District Attorney Keith Stutes asked Rubin in court papers not to grant Guilbeau’s request. Stutes said the only legal option Rubin has now is to impose the full three-year sentence for Fontenot while the state’s 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reviews the original sentence.