Steven Bradley

Steven Bradley is accused of taking part in the killing of a Reserve couple found floating in the Intracoastal Waterway in 2014. (OPSO)

Steven “Future” Bradley beat a murder rap in the gruesome deaths of a Reserve couple who were trussed up and tossed into the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in 2014.

But thanks to Louisiana’s habitual-offender law, the rapper from Baton Rouge could not escape a 70-year sentence when he stood in front of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Benedict Willard on Friday.

Willard handed the long term to the 33-year-old Bradley, 17 months after his conviction on counts of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice in the deaths of Kenneth and Lakeitha Joseph.

Willard initially sentenced Bradley to 35 years in prison, but prosecutors invoked his status as a two-time felon to increase the sentence. The state's 4th Circuit Court of Appeal upheld his conviction on Wednesday.

In a statement, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro called the killings "one of the most heinous, heartless crimes this city has seen."

He added, “I’m pleased that the appellate court rejected Mr. Bradley’s appeal, and that his felony history enabled us to have him sentenced under the habitual offender statute.”

The investigation into the Josephs’ deaths began in late February 2014, the last time they were seen alive. Their bloated bodies were discovered weeks later in the Intracoastal Waterway, tied to kettlebells with nylon ropes.

Police said they eventually determined that the Josephs were attacked inside a Metairie music studio by a man named Horatio Johnson, who had previously been convicted of manslaughter for blasting another man in the head with a shotgun in Reserve in 1994.

Johnson’s girlfriend, who agreed to testify for the state, said Bradley was also inside the studio. She claimed she saw Bradley load the Josephs into a van and drive them to the Interstate 510 bridge between New Orleans East and Chalmette, where they were thrown — still alive — into the waterway.

At his trial, Bradley’s attorneys claimed that while he may later have unwittingly helped get rid of a van used to dump the Josephs, he took no part in the killings.

A jury convicted Johnson of two counts of second-degree murder. Bradley avoided conviction on the same charges, but his prior felonies led to what amounts to a virtual life sentence.

Another suspect in the killings, Amir “Blue” Ybarra, is believed to have fled the country.

Assistant District Attorneys Kevin Guillory, Arthur Mitchell IV and Bonycle Sokunbi prosecuted Bradley, who was represented by Leon Roché and Mariah Holder of the Orleans Public Defenders.


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.