LAFAYETTE — A prosecutor is challenging a 15th Judicial District Judge’s recent decision to suspend Jerry Steinle’s three-year manslaughter sentence, alleging in court filings that state law does not allow such sentences to be suspended.
Steinle, 62, was convicted of manslaughter in the December 2009 shooting death of 40-year-old David Trahan following a bench trial earlier this month before Judge Edward D. Rubin.
Rubin sentenced Steinle, who was on trial for second-degree murder, to a three-year suspended sentence and two years of unsupervised probation.
In a court filing this week, Assistant District Attorney Keith Stutes wrote that the “sentence is illegal and specifically illegally lenient.”
Manslaughter carries possible sentences ranging up to 40 years.
Stutes argues that Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 893 provides that people convicted of “crimes of violence,” under which a manslaughter conviction would fall, “are to be denied the benefit of suspension of sentence.”
Steinle’s attorney, Thomas E. Guilbeau, had not filed a response to Stutes’ motion as of Friday afternoon. Guilbeau also was unavailable for comment Friday because his office closes at noon.
Steinle, a retired helicopter pilot, testified he shot Trahan three times in self-defense after Trahan struck him across the face during a confrontation under Steinle’s carport on Rena Drive.
The encounter occurred after Trahan had written “Jerry has sex with little boys” across Steinle’s door.
Trahan once lived next door to Steinle when Trahan was a young boy, according to court testimony.
In 2005, Trahan was arrested for spray-painting the word “pedophile” across the roof of Steinle’s home.
While ruling that there was no evidence to convict Steinle of second-degree murder, Rubin said the force Steinle used was not reasonable given the circumstances, thereby ruling out the defendant’s self-defense claim.
Guilbeau has already announced his intention to appeal the conviction, calling it a clear case of self-defense.
Stutes’ motion will be heard Oct. 20, according to court records.