A brief courtroom apology was no help to Charles “Chuck” Carter Jr.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White on Wednesday sentenced Carter to 362 years in prison and an additional life sentence for his role in a bloody armed robbery spree over three weeks in 2012 that left U.S. Navy veteran and UNO film student Valan May dead and Uptown lawyer Sanford Bull “Sandy” Kaynor paralyzed and mute.
A jury in January convicted Carter, 19, on charges of attempted murder in Sandy Kaynor’s shooting, second-degree murder in May’s killing 17 days later and three counts of armed robbery.
Each armed robbery count carries a maximum 99-year prison term, and that’s what White handed Carter, adding five years to each count for firearms enhancements.
She also sentenced Carter to the maximum 50 years for the attempted murder of Kaynor, who was shot outside his Camp Street home during an armed robbery on Oct. 2, 2012.
White ordered all the sentences to run consecutively, with no chance of parole for Carter, who was 16 at the time of the crime spree.
For May’s murder, White sentenced Carter to life, with parole eligibility in 35 years — an empty gesture that appeared designed to skirt any future legal challenges to the sentence. It also averted the need for a full hearing on Carter’s history and potential for change.
In a series of recent rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court has raised the bar for sentencing juvenile killers, requiring hearings to weigh their youth and capacity for future change when considering the harshest possible punishment of life without parole. Such sentences, the court found, should be reserved for the rare juvenile who exhibits “irretrievable depravity.”
White still found that Carter fits that bill.
“I think your actions are utterly evil,” she said. “I think that you are the worst of the worst. You disrespect the value of human life. You disrespect the law, and you disrespect this court.”
Prosecutors Jason Napoli and Alex Calenda refrained Wednesday from playing jail phone calls in which Carter is heard “talking about his desire to physically assault Sanford Kaynor’s son,” Napoli said. “It does not get worse than that. If that’s not depravity, I don’t know what is.”
That son, 18-year-old Granville Kaynor, nevertheless took the witness stand to speak to Carter directly.
“We have to take responsibility and face the consequences of our actions head-on. There’s no getting past those. We have to take it like a man,” he said. “I know that somewhere in there you do feel badly, and I know that you are sorry. And as hard as it may seem, I still do forgive you.”
His father was a successful lawyer with the Jones Walker law firm and an avid guitarist when he was gunned down before the robbers stole electronics and cash from the house. Sandy Kaynor’s wife and their 8-year-old daughter were inside. The robbers swiped the keys to Sandy Kaynor’s Cadillac, stepped over his body and drove off.
Authorities acknowledge they don’t know who pulled the trigger because Kaynor can’t speak.
Seventeen days later, May drove to New Orleans East to give two female friends a ride to a party, but their dates that night — Carter and Devante “Tae Banger” Billy — demanded money from him, the girls testified at Carter’s trial. May had only $25. Carter handed a gun to Billy and told him to shoot the 24-year-old Navy veteran, witnesses said.
Billy, 21, still awaits trial.
Byron “Poodie Man” Johnson, who was not implicated in the attack on May, pleaded guilty in September to a dozen counts, including attempted murder for the attack on Kaynor. He accepted a 45-year prison term.
Grace Kaynor recounted the horrors of her husband’s injuries and the ordeal of his constant care, while noting a lack of remorse from Carter.
Johnson, she said, “at least had the decency to plead guilty and do the right thing.”
After a hushed conversation with his attorneys just before White was set to sentence him, Carter ambled to the podium in shackles. He turned to face the victims’ families for the first time.
“I want to thank the family for forgiving me for what happened to y’all families. I want to apologize for what happened as well,” he said. “I hope that y’all will forgive me. That’s it.”
The judge was unimpressed.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.