Orleans Parish defendant backs out of deal to testify, pays dearly _lowres

Jaroid Washington

Cold feet proved costly for Jaroid Washington on Tuesday, when an Orleans Parish judge nearly doubled his sentence after he refused to testify at a murder trial over the 2012 killing of a Southeastern Louisiana University student in the parking lot of an Algiers strip mall.

Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman sentenced the 18-year-old Washington to 40-year terms on counts of manslaughter, armed robbery with a firearm and obstruction of justice. She also handed him 30 years on a conspiracy count, with all of the sentences to run concurrently.

Washington was the last of five defendants to get prison time for a crime that was captured with rare clarity by security cameras at the shopping center in the 5100 block of Gen. DeGaulle Drive. At the time, then-New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas called it “one of the worse homicides I’ve ever had to see on film in the 30-plus years of my career in law enforcement.”

Washington, who was 17 at the time, admitted participating in the carjacking-turned-execution that left computer technology student Fernando Eyzaguirre dying in a pool of blood on the pavement. He agreed in February to plead guilty and accept a 23-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against the others involved.

But he bit his lip and mumbled his refusal when it came time to testify in May at the murder trial of co-defendant Milton “Bullet” Wilson. Despite Washington’s silence, a jury convicted Wilson after deliberating for just under an hour. Wilson was sentenced in July to life in prison.

Washington never got a chance to redeem himself in the judge’s eyes. Marke “Fresh” Simmons, 21, who was believed to be the ringleader and primary, if not lone, shooter, agreed to an 85-year prison sentence in July, avoiding a possible death sentence.

Legally unable to recant his guilty plea, Washington stood up slowly Tuesday, a slender teenager in an oversized prison jumpsuit, as Herman fulfilled a pledge to increase his sentence.

Prosecutors with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office had asked Herman to reconsider the agreed-upon sentence for Washington after his eleventh-hour refusal to testify.

Herman said the existence of damning video evidence made the decision easier, though she did not go as far as she could have. Sentencing guidelines would have allowed for as much as 99 years on the armed robbery count.

The video footage shows Washington opening the car door as Eyzaguirre sat texting his girlfriend shortly after 2 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2012.

Eyzaguirre, 27, had made the short drive from his family’s Tall Timbers home for an early morning workout at Anytime Fitness, in the 5100 block of Gen. DeGaulle Drive.

At gunpoint, he got out of the car and turned over his keys and wallet. Then Wilson and Simmons took aim. The gunfire felled the student and the men took off. A passerby discovered his body hours later.

“I was able to see firsthand, Mr. Washington, the actions you chose to take on that date,” the judge said. “And while, to your credit, the actions you chose to take involved some level of cooperation — you were willing to speak to law enforcement — they cannot ever change the actions you chose to take when you weren’t aware you were being watched.

“You were fully, 100 percent committed in the vicious and brutal slaying of an innocent man” and a later attempt to cover it up.

Two others pleaded guilty in June to roles in the crime.

Erin Doucet, 19, the alleged getaway driver, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and armed robbery with a firearm, accepting a 25-year prison sentence. Doucet agreed to testify against Simmons but never had to.

Desmonique Reed, Simmons’ girlfriend, pleaded guilty to two accessory counts, for murder and armed robbery. She was accused of taking a phone call from a jailed Simmons, who directed her to tell Washington to stay silent. She received a 54-month sentence.

For Eyzaguirre’s parents, Gilberto and Mila, Washington’s sentencing marked the end, barring successful appeals, of a nearly two-year campaign for justice.

Gilberto Eyzaguirre, a former top waiter at Galatoire’s restaurant in the French Quarter, took the stand Tuesday to recount the couple’s flight from guerilla violence in Peru for a better life in the United States. Choking with emotion, he described a family gutted, decades later, by the murder, and he pleaded for a tough sentence for Washington.

“What did you accomplish by killing my son? It’s time to pay for your crime on Earth, and the gates of hell will be waiting for you soon, because you killed an angel,” he said. “I wish the worst future for you in whatever prison you will be, as the coward that you are, and I hope you will learn the real meaning of human pain in prison, since you did not learn it in your 17 years of your miserable life.”

He described the group as “unrepentant murderers,” lacking remorse.

“It took this animal, these criminals, 27 seconds to destroy what a family built in 27 years,” he said.

Washington’s godmother, Tequila Williams, grew agitated as she shifted in her seat in the courtroom gallery. Washington turned around to her but never spoke.

“Hurt,” she later described her reaction to the verbal assault on her godson. “He’s a child.”

Adam Beckman, Washington’s attorney for the sentencing, acknowledged to the judge that his client had made some severe mistakes.

“He made a bad decision, obviously, by the people he associated with. He made a bad decision by the situation he got himself involved in. We’re here today because of another bad decision Jaroid made when he made an agreement with the state and he backed out of that agreement,” Beckman said.

“I ask you not to forget about the good decisions he made along the way. The information he gave to police and the District Attorney’s Office we believe ... resulted in convictions of the four other people that were involved.”

Gilberto Eyzaguirre later acknowledged as much, saying he was satisfied with the 40-year sentence.

After Herman announced his sentence, Washington walked quickly toward a sheriff’s deputy and through a door in the back of the courtroom.

Mila Eyzaguirre stayed in her seat.

“A year and 10 months of agony,” she said. “I’m relieved. Even though my son’s never coming back.”

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.