Keith Kisack paid a steep price for keeping a cellphone and charger in Orleans Parish Prison: life behind bars.
A judge on Thursday handed him a life sentence on a single contraband count under the state’s habitual offender law.
Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier imposed the life sentence for Kisack two months after a six-member jury convicted him following a trial in which his former defense attorney, City Councilman Jason Williams, testified about text exchanges to and from the phone.
The jury deliberated for less than 15 minutes before convicting Kisack on July 29 of a single contraband charge.
Kisack, 39, screamed profanities in the courtroom and had to be restrained by several deputies during his sentencing hearing Thursday before Flemings-Davillier handed down the sentence. He also refused to be fingerprinted.
Kisack had been awaiting trial for murder and attempted murder. Following his conviction on the charge of possessing contraband in jail, prosecutors with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office filed quickly to have him sentenced under the stiff guidelines of the habitual offender law.
Kisack’s conviction record dates back to the early 1990s, leaving him prone to a hefty sentence as a four-time offender. He has been convicted on gun charges, aggravated battery, robbery and kidnapping, along with illegal possession of a stolen auto and resisting an officer.
He faced 20 years to life under the law. Flemings-Davillier chose the maximum.
In a statement, Cannizzaro praised the life sentence for Kisack, calling him “emblematic of the revolving door that plagued this criminal justice system for decades.”
Kisack was indicted in 2009 on charges of murder, attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. He has remained behind bars since his arrest that same year.
Deputies conducting a shakedown on Dec. 27, 2011, found the phone tucked in a black sock in a crevice in the wall of the C-2 tier of Orleans Parish Prison. It contained numerous texts from Kisack and photos that purportedly included a “selfie.”
The phone also contained several text-message exchanges with Williams’ cellphone number.
Because the texts included holiday greetings but no legal discussions, prosecutors with Cannizzaro’s office convinced the judge to allow testimony from Williams, a reluctant witness in the case. Williams confirmed only his end of the texts, testifying that he had no way of knowing whether it was Kisack or someone else purporting to speak for the defendant on the other end.
Defense attorney Eusi Phillips could not be reached for comment Thursday. Ike Spears, who also represented Kisack, referred questions to Phillips.
Evidence of how Kisack might have obtained the cellphone and charger in the jail never emerged at his trial. Phillips and Spears argued in vain that neither the emails to and from Williams, nor the photos of Kisack found on the phone, proved anything about who kept the phone on the jail tier.
The phone apparently also roamed to another part of the jail, according to testimony at Kisack’s trial.
He can still face trial on the murder and attempted murder charges if the DA’s Office decides to prosecute them.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.