GONZALES — A judge on Thursday sentenced Stanley White, of Donaldsonville, to two years of home incarceration after White avoided for 19 years a prison sentence for an Ascension Parish crash that killed a 10-week-old St. Amant infant in 1994.
Judge Jessie LeBlanc, of the 23rd Judicial District, accepted an agreement that prosecutors and White’s defense attorney reached in the case.
White, 39, 503 Vatican Drive, was never called to serve a two-year sentence for negligent homicide to which he pleaded guilty in 1995.
LeBlanc suspended White’s sentence last year after the case resurfaced, but in July, the Louisiana 1st Circuit Court of Appeal reversed LeBlanc, saying the judge created a new sentence and ordered her to consider prosecution motions to revoke White’s bail and execute his sentence.
Attorneys portrayed the agreement Thursday as a just settlement in a unique situation, but the parents of Brittany Deville, the infant killed in the 1994 crash with White, were unhappy White would avoid jail time.
“It just makes no sense to me. I don’t understand this,” a weeping Rachel Deville, Brittany’s mother, said outside the Ascension Parish Courthouse Annex after the ruling.
Brittany’s father, Shannon Deville, 44, said he is the person who discovered several years ago that White never served his sentence after White, a convicted felon, was able to get a critical access card to a plant where both men worked.
Shannon Deville questioned the handling of the case.
“Me, my personal opinion, Ascension Parish doesn’t have a justice system,” he said.
The 23rd Judicial District encompasses Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes.
Under the sentence, White must wear an ankle monitor overseen by the state Office of Probation and Parole, and he cannot leave his Donaldsonville home unless he’s going to work, the doctor, church or for travel related to requirements of Probation and Parole.
Kurt Wall, director of the Attorney General’s Office’s Criminal Division, said after the hearing that agencies “dropped the ball to some extent” 19 years ago and that his office was trying to make sure White was “held accountable in some way.”
“And we felt like this was the best resolution,” Wall said.
Steven Moore, White’s defense attorney, said White is distraught over the crash and wanted the case to be over as quickly as possible for his benefit, as well as the Deville family’s.
“I think this is the right call,” Moore said of the Attorney General’s Office’s acceptance of the agreement.
Moore claimed the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on cases similar to this and contended his client was likely to prevail in the end. While Wall did not agree with that conclusion, he said the uncertainty of years of litigation was a factor prosecutors considered in accepting the agreement.
“One of the important things and one of the important aspects of justice is finality, and that’s what we’ve achieved today, in addition to making certain he was held accountable in some way,” Wall said.
White, who left the courthouse without speaking with reporters, had pleaded guilty in July 1995 to a reduced charge of negligent homicide following the alcohol-related crash on Airline Highway near Gonzales that killed Brittany Deville.
But even after an appeals court affirmed the negligent homicide conviction in February 1997, White never was called to serve his time in prison.
Since that time, White, who was 19 at the time of the accident, has earned a college degree, has held a job and has not been in trouble with the law.
Moore acknowledged Thursday that White never contacted authorities about his pending prison sentence and never felt he should call. He said his client was like any other person — waiting for the system.
“He was waiting to hear what is he supposed to do,” Moore said.
It’s still not clear how White’s original sentence failed to be executed.
In the appeal of LeBlanc’s ruling last year, in which she suspended White’s original sentence, the majority of the three-judge panel found that LeBlanc did not have the authority to suspend the sentence and reinstated the two years of prison time.
But the appeals court stayed its order a day later, however, on July 15, because the three judges’ rulings conflicted on how to proceed with the case.
In a subsequent ruling July 21, a majority of the panel reversed LeBlanc and handed down the ruling that led to Thursday’s hearing.
In court Thursday, after meeting with LeBlanc in her private chambers, the attorneys and LeBlanc came out, and Wall announced the two sides had reached an agreement in advance and read it in the courtroom.
Rachel Deville began crying, and her niece, Ashley Bercegeay, 27, briefly walked out as LeBlanc said she would accept the agreement.