A judge refused Monday to reduce the $250,000 bond set for Trung Le, the admitted first shooter in a late June melee on Bourbon Street that killed a Hammond woman and wounded nine others.
Le, of Belle Chasse, remains jailed on charges of attempted murder and manslaughter in connection with the shooting, which sent scores of partiers scrambling for cover about 2:30 a.m. June 29. He was indicted in August.
New Orleans police have yet to book or name a second suspected shooter.
Le’s attorney, Martin Regan, continues to cast his client as a hero who saved the lives of his friends by firing in self-defense after the other man approached the group, started acting in a threatening way without provocation and raised a .40-caliber handgun.
On Monday, Regan sought to lower the bail that a prior acting judge, Jerome Winsberg, had set in September after a hearing in which several of Le’s fellow partiers that night took the witness stand to vouch for him.
At issue then, and again on Monday, was security video footage that Regan says shows the other man stride down the street with a weapon, then point it at the group on the corner of the 600 block of Bourbon Street just before gunfire erupted.
This time, Regan came armed with a photo lab manager who had worked to clarify a grainy video and freeze some still shots of the incident.
Robert “Big Red” Benvenuti, a friend of Le’s, once again took the witness stand to identify himself in the video and deny ever before seeing the other shooter.
“The dude walked past us looking crazy, looking at us all in our face,” Benvenuti said, acknowledging once more that his close friend, Justin Odom, called out to the man.
“(Justin) asked him ... ‘Why are you looking like that?’ ” Benvenuti said.
“We just stood there like, ‘What do you want?’ and dude pulled a gun out.”
After the man “walked up and said, ‘I got the .40’ ” and lifted the weapon, Benvenuti said, he ran and didn’t notice who fired first.
He admitted, under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Laura Rodrigue, that he was drunk and high on marijuana at the time, “doing what a teenager does.”
Benvenuti, 22, was shot four times that night.
“I’m very proud that he (Le) was there, what he did,” Benvenuti said. “I’d probably be dead right now if he wasn’t there.”
Though prosecutors acknowledge it was the other man who fatally shot Brittany Thomas that night, the grand jury indicted Le on a manslaughter count, claiming her death resulted from Le’s commission of a crime during the shootout.
That crime, it appears, was the attempted murder of the second shooter, according to the prosecution’s theory of the case.
Retired Criminal District Court Judge Calvin Johnson, presiding over the case on an ad hoc basis, declined to lower the $250,000 bond but also refused a request by Rodrigue to raise it based on a battery charge Le picked up for a fight with another inmate while in jail.
Le, who turned 21 in Orleans Parish Prison, has admitted that he hit another inmate, Blair Taylor. Le broke his hand in the Sept. 30 fight.
Taylor faces two counts of second-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder and other charges from an indictment related to a drive-by shooting in August in the Lower 9th Ward.
After Monday’s hearing, Regan said Le, who pleaded not guilty to the battery count, “accepted responsibility to avoid further problems” in jail.
Johnson acknowledged that the case has suffered from the rotating series of judges who have overseen it because of a vacancy on the bench. A fifth judge will take over before the next court hearing in January, when former state and federal prosecutor Byron C. Williams is sworn in.
In the meantime, Regan is pushing to force prosecutors with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office to turn over an unredacted list of witnesses to the shooting.
A trial is set for February.