The trial of a convicted felon accused of knocking a St. Francisville man unconscious at a north Baton Rouge gas station after teasing the man about his pink shirt and allegedly telling him he had stopped “in the wrong neighborhood” was postponed Tuesday until March 30.
Donald Ray Dickerson, 43, of Baton Rouge, was scheduled to stand trial this week on a second-degree battery charge, but prosecutors told state District Judge Lou Daniel that Jacob Butler, the lead detective on the case, has the flu and has been ordered by a doctor to rest in bed and have no contact with others.
Dickerson’s attorney, Bernard Blair, objected to the state’s request for a continuance and said the defense was ready to proceed to trial. Daniel, who noted that the defense previously sought and received a trial continuance last fall, said there were proper grounds to grant the state’s request.
Butler testified at a hearing in April that David Ray told police Dickerson teased him about the pink shirt he was wearing before punching him on Mother’s Day 2013 at Stadium Chevron on Scenic Highway at the foot of Plank Road.
Court filings allege Dickerson told Ray he was “in the wrong neighborhood” and was not going to make it out.
Ray was severely beaten in the attack, suffering facial fractures, a broken nose, a broken eye socket, a concussion and bruises and cuts to his face and skull, according to a lawsuit he and his family filed against the gas station and Dickerson.
Blair has described the ordeal as a misunderstanding.
The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office is not pursuing hate crime charges against Dickerson, but instead will seek to charge him as a habitual offender and subject him to a sentence of life in prison if he is convicted in the gas station attack. Dickerson is black and Ray is white.
Dickerson had recently been released from federal prison at the time of the attack. He was previously convicted of purse snatching, carnal knowledge of a juvenile and armed robbery. Prosecutors also have charged him with failing to register as a sex offender.
Two other suspects — Devin Bessye and Ashley Simmons — allegedly struck Ray’s wife and 14-year-old daughter. Both were issued summonses for simple battery, a misdemeanor. Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. has said the officers who decided not to book Bessye and Simmons into Parish Prison were counseled for an “error in judgment.”