An Orleans Parish judge on Friday rejected a bid for a new trial for Trung Le, the Belle Chasse man who fired the first four bullets in a fatal 2014 shootout on Bourbon Street that sparked a makeover in French Quarter policing.
But Orleans Parish Criminal District Judge Byron C. Williams postponed sentencing for Le, 22, until Monday morning, granting a request by his attorney for a delay to roust witnesses to testify for his client.
Le faces a minimum 20-year prison term, after a jury convicted him in January of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter for his role in a melee that left nine people shot and 21-year-old Hammond nursing student Brittany Thomas dead. Prosecutors acknowledge that Thomas was killed by a second shooter, whom police have not found.
Williams rejected five claims that Le’s attorney, Martin Regan, argued in seeking a new trial for Le. Among them, Regan claimed prosecutors improperly told the jury about his early comment in the case to media that Le had an alibi and “wasn’t the shooter on Bourbon Street,” and also that he wasn’t granted enough time to track down numerous witnesses to the shooting spree.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office had withheld those names until four days before trial, citing safety concerns. Regan had argued that issue up to the Louisiana Supreme Court, to little avail, prior to Le’s trial.
The jury didn’t buy Le’s claim of self-defense, which was backed by friends who claimed he heroically stepped forward and fired after their group was confronted by an addled, gun-wielding assailant. The firefight took place amid an early morning party crowd in the 700 block of Bourbon about 2:45 a.m. on June 29, 2014.
Prosecutors Laura Cannizzaro Rodrigue and Tiffany Tucker argued at trial that Le “was called out as a hit man” with his gun to retaliate for an earlier attempt that night to rob Odom of his marijuana. The jury convicted Le on counts of manslaughter — for his role in Thomas’ slaying — and attempted manslaughter — a lesser offense from a charge of attempted murder — for firing on the second shooter. The shootout — four shots from Le, then 11 from the other man — sent packs of early-morning revelers scrambling for cover.
The incident came a week before Essence Fest and prompted Mayor Mitch Landrieu to plead for a contingent of State Police troopers to shore up a New Orleans Police Department contingent in the French Quarter that had dwindled amid a broader manpower shortfall on the force.
Those troopers remain, now funded through an additional sales tax on French Quarter spenders.