Suspect sought in attempted armed robbery of Baton Rouge motel in July _lowres

Jonathan Robertson

A Baton Rouge man's conviction and 50-year prison sentence on armed robbery charges has been overturned by an appellate court -- but his legal troubles are far from over.

Jonathan Robertson still faces two second-degree murder charges. And he faces a habitual offender hearing in March, after he was convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 2008 and simple robbery in 2010. 

Robertson's armed robbery conviction was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court's April ruling outlawing split-jury verdicts in criminal cases. But another conviction on attempted armed robbery -- on which the jury was unanimous -- was upheld, with its 25-year sentence.

Robertson's convictions from last fall were on appeal when the high court issued its ruling in a New Orleans case.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said last week he won't challenge the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal's Nov. 6 decision. Depending on how severe a sentence he receives as a repeat offender,  prosecutors then will decide whether to retry the armed robbery charge and also whether to try the double-homicide, Moore said.

Robertson could face a prison term of 24 years to 99 years under Louisiana's habitual offender sentencing guidelines.

His attorney, Margaret Lagattuta, has said an offer from prosecutors for him to plead guilty to manslaughter in the 2015 double homicide remains on the table. Manslaughter carries up to 40 years in prison.

The second-degree murder charges carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison if he's convicted.

Robertson was a convicted felon when he allegedly fatally shot two Texas women in Baton Rouge in 2015. Brandi Gilbert, of Plano, and Corrine Rayford, of Grapevine, both 23, were shot in the head and found in a parked car on Boone Avenue on June 19, 2015.

Less than two weeks later on July 1, 2015, Robertson allegedly robbed a Cracker Barrel on Jefferson Highway and tried to rob a Comfort Inn security guard off College Drive in incidents that occurred two hours apart.

The hotel guard disarmed Robertson in the parking lot, and that pistol was traced back to the double-homicide.

Even though the 1st Circuit set aside Robertson's 10-2 armed robbery conviction and sent it back to district court for a new trial, the appeals court said a rational juror could have concluded that the perpetrator at the Cracker Barrel and Comfort Suites "was one and the same person, the defendant."

The appellate court said any juror could have "reasonably concluded" that Robertson, dressed in black and wearing an Atlanta Falcons cap, robbed the convenience store clerk and then tried to rob the hotel security guard.

In addition to the gun, a glove and Falcons cap were left behind at the hotel parking lot scene. Robertson's DNA was found on the cap, the appeals court said.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.