A Baton Rouge man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend's stepfather and a police officer just hours apart on April 26, 2020, won't be tried separately in the "integrally related" killings, a judge decided Tuesday.

Prosecutors had argued they couldn't try Ronnie Kato before the same jury because his longtime girlfriend and the woman's mother won't cooperate with them. The girlfriend, Donkeisha Allen, also allegedly threatened to kill members of the prosecution team, prosecutors have said.

Kato's attorneys opposed the state's request to sever the two first-degree murder counts, saying their client should be tried before one jury in the deaths of Curtis Richardson, 58, and Baton Rouge Police Lt. Glenn Dale Hutto Jr., 45.

"The alleged acts are closely connected and joinder of the counts for trial is not conclusively prejudicial to either party," state District Judge Christopher Dassau wrote Tuesday.

Dassau said the state has shown only "inconvenience, or a slight prejudice at most."

"There has been no showing that severance will effect or improve the level of witness cooperation," the judge stated. "There has been no showing that separate trials will remedy any witness cooperation issue."

Kato's lead lawyer, Sean Collins, applauded Dassau's ruling, while East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said his office will appeal the decision.

Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty against Kato in the Hutto slaying and had asked 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. Alma Allen 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 Donkeisha Allen's three children.

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Prosecutor Dana Cummings also had argued that Donkeisha Allen would have the opportunity to "sabotage" the state's case in front of the jury. The prosecutor said the state couldn't expect the woman to be an honest witness.

But Dassau ruled that no showing has been made that either Donkeisha Allen or her mother would refuse to comply with a subpoena to testify "or that they would testify falsely."

Collins, who is Kato's lead attorney, called the judge's ruling "completely founded and justified." Franz Borghardt also represents Kato.

Moore noted that both Kato and the prosecution have a right to a fair trial.

"To be forced now to try both of these homicides at the same time, to the same jury, given the hostility shown, would be unduly prejudicial to the state, to the family of Lt. Glenn Dale Hutto, and the biological family of Curtis Richardson," he said.

Authorities say Kato killed Richardson during a domestic dispute with Donkeisha Allen on North Pamela Drive. Several hours later, police say he fatally shot Hutto 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.


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