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

Jonathan Robertson

Just when it appeared the U.S. Supreme Court had handed Jonathan Robertson hope in his quest to reduce his 75-year prison sentence, the convicted Baton Rouge robber now may end up serving even more time behind bars.

That's because after the high court ruled last month that juries must be unanimous to convict criminal defendants, the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office moved to have Robertson classified as a habitual offender, which would expose him to a greater penalty.

Robertson, 29, who is accused in the June 2015 killing of two Texas women, had complained that the 75-year prison term he received in December for a July 2015 armed robbery and attempted armed robbery was excessive.

Robertson's motion to reconsider his sentence was denied by a state judge in January, but then came the Supreme Court's April 20 non-unanimous jury ruling in a New Orleans case.

Robertson's September armed robbery conviction, which is on appeal and which resulted in 50 years of his 75-year sentence, was not unanimous. His attempted armed robbery conviction was by a 12-0 vote and led to the remaining 25 years of his sentence.

Now, East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors want District Judge Beau Higginbotham — who presided over Robertson's trial and sentenced him — to deem him a three-time felony offender and re-sentence him accordingly.

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

"It's in limbo," Assistant Public Defender Margaret Lagattuta, who represents Robertson, said Thursday.

Higginbotham has scheduled a hearing Sept. 14 on the habitual offender issue.

In a court filing after the Supreme Court's decision, prosecutor Stuart Theriot noted that Robertson was convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in East Baton Rouge Parish in 2008 and simple robbery in West Baton Rouge Parish in 2010. Both crimes are felonies.

Robertson's attempted armed robbery conviction last year makes him a third felony offender, Theriot contends.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Thursday his office does not prosecute defendants as habitual offenders often but does so "when it is legally appropriate and when the safety of our community requires it."

"Based on this defendant's past violent history he has proven to be a danger to the community and by statute a habitual offender," Moore said.

He added that Robertson's non-unanimous armed robbery verdict will need to be retried or resolved.

Earlier this year, prosecutors offered Robertson a chance to plead guilty to manslaughter in the 2015 double-homicide. Robertson, who is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, is still considering that offer.

A second-degree murder conviction would subject Robertson to a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

He's accused of fatally shooting Brandi Gilbert, of Plano, Texas, and Corrine Rayford, of Grapevine Texas, on June 19, 2015. The 23-year-old women were shot in the head and found in a parked car on Boone Avenue in Baton Rouge.

The armed robbery and attempted armed robbery that Robertson was found guilty of committing, while wearing an Atlanta Falcons cap with a sticker on the bill, occurred two hours apart on July 1, 2015.

The pistol used in the attempted robbery of a Comfort Inn security guard in the hotel parking lot on Valley Creek Drive off College Drive was traced back to the double-homicide. The guard disarmed Robertson.

Jurors found that, two hours before the attempted robbery, Robertson robbed a store clerk at gunpoint at the Cracker Barrel on Jefferson Highway near Barringer Foreman Road, making off with about $70.


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