CLINTON — Following a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that says vehicular homicide is a “crime of violence,” a state district judge of Greensburg, Tuesday resentenced a Greensburg man who pleaded guilty to killing seven people in a head-on collision last year.
Twentieth Judicial District Judge William G. Carmichael said the new sentence — 35 years instead of 70 — will result in approximately the same prison release dates for Brett G. Gerald as those in the original sentence.
Family members of the victim were livid, however, saying they wanted Gerald to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Carmichael sentenced Gerin March to serve seven consecutive 10-year sentences, specifying that five years of each 10-year sentence, or a total of 35 years, would be served without the possibility of probation or parole.
Seven days after Gerald’s sentencing, however, the state Supreme Court ruled in a Morehouse Parish case that vehicular homicide is the type of violent crime for which state law requires a defendant to serve at least 85 percent of a sentence.
Carmichael resentenced Gerald on Tuesday to five years on each of the seven counts. The sentences are to run consecutively, which Carmichael said will result in Gerald having about the same parole eligibility and good-time release dates as he originally intended in his March sentencing order.
“It was never my intention for Mr. Gerald to serve the rest of his life in prison,” Carmichael said in court. “Unless I modify the sentence, that would be the effect.”
Under the high court’s ruling, Gerald would have had to serve 85 percent of the original 70-year sentence, but Carmichael’s action will require him to serve 85 percent of 35 years, or about 29 years and nine months.
Gerald is being held at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde said last week that Gerald’s release date with parole supervision for good behavior was calculated for June 2040, or 28 years after he was jailed.
“Now that he’s been resentenced, we’ll have to recalculate based on the new sentencing minutes when we receive them from the court,” Laborde said Tuesday.
Carmichael also fined Gerald $2,000 on each of the seven counts.
Gerald’s pickup collided May 30 with a car occupied by seven Baton Rouge residents returning home from Clinton church services. Killed immediately were Brenda Gaines, 64; Denise Gaines, 33; Diamond Johnson, 12; Jyran Johnson, 6; and Angela Matthews Mosely, 36.
Two other passengers, Willie Gaines Jr., 15, and Rogerick Johnson Jr., 13, also of Baton Rouge, died several days later.
“It seems like something is seriously wrong with this whole thing. I didn’t expect them to resentence Mr. Gerald,” said Brenda Gaines’ husband, the Rev. John Gaines Sr. “The Supreme Court said he was supposed to serve 85 percent of his sentence before being eligible for parole or probation.
“Now, with the judge resentencing him, that’s him (Carmichael) taking over,” Gaines said.
Gaines also criticized District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla for not arguing vigorously enough against the sentence change.
“Everything is out of order here. It’s unacceptable,” Gaines said.
D’Aquilla did tell Carmichael in court he objected to resentencing Gerald. He said the original sentence was fair, although he and the victims’ families requested a harsher sentence.
“This is truly an outrage. Mr. Gerald should have served 85 percent of 70 years,” added John Gaines Jr.
Gerald’s attorney, Tommy Damico, said in his motion that the court understood that Gerald would serve 40 percent of the total sentence before becoming eligible for release.
Damico said the judge “made a decision of equity.”
“It’s probably not going to change much of his actual (prison) time,” Damico said.
Damico said he believes the Supreme Court is wrong in this case in considering what constitutes a crime of violence.
“The federal courts have addressed this issue many, many times, and have always said that vehicular homicide is not a crime of violence. I think if the (state) Supreme Court reconsiders it, we may have a different result,” Damico said.
The defense attorney said the Supreme Court’s reasoning “suggests to me that DWI also could be a crime of violence and everybody could end up going to jail for DWI.”