Freedom proved short-lived for a 25-year-old Baton Rouge man with drug and gun convictions who once was accused in a horrific 2007 beating and burning death in which several witnesses were later fatally shot.
Less than a month after his release from federal prison on a firearm conviction, Dearius Duheart was taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies Monday, shortly after pleading guilty in Baton Rouge state court to the same crime of illegally possessing a gun.
Duheart, under the terms of a plea agreement, was sentenced to 14 years in prison by state District Judge Don Johnson but given credit for the more than three years he served in a federal penitentiary.
The gun charge is something of a consolation prize for state prosecutors. Duheart had once been a suspect in a far graver crime, accused in the death of Jason Fourmy, whose beaten and burned body was found Oct. 31, 2007, in a wooded area in the 1400 block of Gayosa Street. An autopsy showed Fourmy, 39, was alive when he was set on fire.
But first-degree murder charges were eventually dropped against Duheart, his brother Denako Duheart and another man after three prosecution witnesses — Freida Robertson, Dimonique Hardnett and Shelva Glasper — were each shot to death over a more than two-year time span. No one has ever been charged in connection with the deaths of those three women.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III declined to address the failed murder case Monday but said his office always meant to pursue further gun charges against Dearius Duheart.
“It was always one we intended to prosecute,” he said. “It’s one we felt we needed to prosecute.”
Trudy Fourmy, whose son died in the woods almost seven years ago, appeared in court Monday, as she has for many of Duheart’s hearings. She declined to comment after the sentencing.
At his federal court sentencing in March 2012, Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson described Duheart as a “very dangerous man.” He received a 41-month prison stint on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, emerging from federal custody on Aug. 21.
In the past, Duheart had pleaded guilty to felony drug possession charges, which made it illegal for him to carry a gun.
His federal and state weapons convictions stemmed from an April 2011 arrest for illegally possessing a 9 mm pistol.
East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor Dana Cummings said Monday that the gun was discovered in Duheart’s waistband following a traffic stop near the intersection of Choctaw Drive and Plank Road. He was a passenger in the car.
U.S. Attorney Walt Green explained in an email Monday that when a felon possesses a firearm, that person may be legally prosecuted in both federal and state court.
If the person is first convicted in state court, the U.S. Department of Justice, as a matter of policy, will generally forgo a federal prosecution unless the state conviction or sentence is deemed insufficient, Green said.
On the other hand, if the person is first convicted in federal court, which is what occurred with Duheart, the state may legally continue with its prosecution or determine that, as a matter of policy, the federal conviction and sentence adequately addressed the situation, he said.
Following Duheart’s federal conviction and sentence, the state made the decision to move forward on its own.
“That approach was both legally permissible and understandable as a matter of policy given the defendant’s criminal history,” Green stated.
Duheart did not address the charges he faced when appearing before Johnson Monday, saying only that he stopped going to school in the eighth grade.
“Perhaps that’s where all this misdirection started,” the judge suggested. “I don’t know.”
Denako “Mutt” Duheart, 29, is serving a 20-year state prison term for an unrelated attempted second-degree murder conviction. The crime occurred in 2009. He was sentenced in August 2011.
In September 2011, the Duhearts’ mother, Dangelique Duheart Russ, was sentenced to two years in prison for trying to bribe the victim of the attempted murder not to press charges against Denako Duheart.