If the state is forced to try a Baton Rouge man before one jury in the April 2020 slayings of his girlfriend's stepfather and a police officer, an "absolute prejudicial circus" would result, a prosecutor told a judge Wednesday.
East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings argued that Donkeisha Allen, the longtime girlfriend of accused killer Ronnie Kato, has demonstrated not only unwavering allegiance to Kato but also hostility toward the slain officer's family, and even threatened to kill members of the prosecution team.
The girlfriend of a man accused of fatally shooting her stepfather and a Baton Rouge police officer in April 2020 threatened last October to k…
"There can be no greater prejudice," Cummings told state District Judge Christopher Dassau during a hearing. "Her hostility toward the state is overwhelming. We can't expect her to be an honest witness in this case. She would have the opportunity to sabotage the case in front of the jury."
But one of Kato's lawyers, Sean Collins, argued that the deaths Curtis Richardson and Lt. Glenn Dale Hutto Jr. several hours apart on April 26, 2020, are "intertwined" and he accused the state of trying to manipulate the system by requesting that the first-degree murder charges be severed, or tried before separate juries at separate trials.
Collins told the judge that the state is alleging "inconvenience" rather than "prejudice."
"At most they've demonstrated inconvenience to them," he said, adding that prosecutors offered no evidence that Allen won't comply with a trial subpoena or tell the truth on the witness stand. "They just want it easier for them. They are manipulating the system."
Attorneys for an accused Baton Rouge cop-killer are objecting to the state's request to try him separately in the April 26, 2020, shooting dea…
Dassau took the arguments from Cummings and Collins and the testimony of several witnesses Wednesday and said he'll issue a written ruling within the next 10 days.
Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty against Kato in the Hutto slaying and want to try him first in that killing. They are not pursuing the death penalty in the Richardson slaying, citing the unwillingness of Allen and her mother — Richardson's wife — to cooperate with prosecutors. Allen's mother has told prosecutors she wants what is best for her daughter and her grandchildren, who love and need their father.
Kato, 37, is the father of Allen's three children.
Authorities say Kato killed Richardson, 58, during a domestic dispute with Allen on North Pamela Drive. Several hours later, he's believed to have fatally shot Hutto, 45, and wounded another officer while police were searching for Kato at a home on Conrad Drive.
Richardson's wife was also at the Pamela Drive scene.
A detective previously testified that Kato ambushed the officers with an assault-style rifle as they searched for him in the backyard of the Conrad Drive home. The same rifle was used to kill Hutto and Richardson, the detective said.
In recorded jail calls played in court Wednesday, Allen told Kato two days after the killings, "Trust me I'm on your side. I'm going to be here for you and support you all the way."
In response to prior court testimony that Kato stood over a wounded Hutto and fatally shot him, Allen told Kato, "I wasn't there, but I know you wouldn't do that."
Allen referred to Kato as a family man and a good person.
Two days after Ronnie Kato allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend's stepfather and a Baton Rouge police officer in April 2020, the woman tol…
Prosecutors revealed for the first time in a court filing Monday that Allen threatened last October to kill those prosecuting her boyfriend. She allegedly made those statements to a medical provider at Our Lady of the Lake, and OLOL representatives in turn notified the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office under a state law that obligated the notification, the filing indicates.
That notification resulted in the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office providing security details for about two weeks at the homes of District Attorney Hillar Moore III, Cummings and fellow Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Barrios, and one of Moore's victim assistance coordinators, the documents state.
Security patrols also were conducted at Allen's home, the new court filing says. She was not charged in connection with the alleged threat.
Security measures remain in place for District Attorney's Office personnel attending court in the Kato case.
Abbey Vaughn, an investigator with the District Attorney's Office, testified Wednesday that she recently interviewed an OLOL family nurse practitioner and a social worker to whom Allen allegedly conveyed her threat.
"She thought the threat was credible," Vaughn said of the social worker who reported that Allen was overwhelmed with two jobs, three children and a death penalty prosecution looming against her boyfriend of 20 years.
"Maybe she was just venting," Collins suggested to Vaughn.
Cummings argued that Allen crossed a line that can't be crossed when she threatened District Attorney's Office employees.
"She is so prejudiced," the prosecutor told Dassau, "that she made a threat against the state."