Brett Gerald sentencing report supplemented with prior offenses

Report detailed prior offenses

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Brett Gerald, center, is escorted from the East Feliciana Parish Courthouse in Clinton by Angola officers Sgt. Reagan, right, and Lt. Hardy after being resentenced May 14, 2013.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Brett Gerald, center, is escorted from the East Feliciana Parish Courthouse in Clinton by Angola officers Sgt. Reagan, right, and Lt. Hardy after being resentenced May 14, 2013.

A relative of six of seven people killed in a head-on collision with drunken driver Brett Gerald said he is angered to learn that part of a presentence investigation of Gerald was omitted from a report given earlier this year to the sentencing judge.

“There’s clearly a miscarriage of justice going on in Clinton,” said John Gaines Jr., who lost his mother, sister and sister’s four children in the May 30, 2012, collision.

Gerald, 31, pleaded guilty in December to seven counts of vehicular homicide, and 20th Judicial District Judge William G. Carmichael ordered the state Division of Probation and Parole to conduct a presentence investigation of the defendant.

Family members of the victims, who said they initially were denied the right to view the report before sentencing, were permitted to look at the documents contained in it last month.

Carmichael filed an order in the record Monday that notes the state Division of Probation and Parole filed an “addendum” to the presentence report.

The judge’s order allows family members of the seven victims to view the additional material at the East Feliciana Parish Clerk of Court’s Office. The documents are sealed from public view, however.

“The current concern of the family is, why wasn’t it put in there initially? He’s been sentenced and re-sentenced, and that report was the main report (for the sentence),” Gaines said Wednesday.

After the family’s initial viewing of the documents July 23, Jill Craft, civil attorney for the Gaines family, said the report was notable for what was not in it, rather than what it actually contained.

Joseph Matthews, the father of one victim, said he counted about 45 statements from people who know Gerald.

“Forty-two were praises of him, and three weren’t,” he said in July.

Gaines said at the same time that the report seemed to be an imbalance between mitigating and aggravating factors that should affect Gerald’s sentence.

Judge Carmichael’s Monday order says the “most serious offenses listed in the addendum were known prior to sentence” and will have no effect on the sentence already imposed.

“Those aggravating circumstances were not just one; there was a bunch of them,” Gaines said Wednesday. “So they think they can add this after the sentence and that’s supposed to appease the families?”

Probation and Parole is a division of the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections. Attempts to reach a Corrections spokeswoman and department Secretary James M. LeBlanc to inquire about the omission were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Defense attorney Tommy Damico said he recently became aware that Probation and Parole had filed additional material with the judge, but he said Carmichael, District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla and he were aware of his client’s prior offenses and they were considered in the judge’s sentence.

“They were not unknown at the time,” Damico said.

He said Probation and Parole agents may have realized that not all of the material from their investigation was included in the report when they read the family’s comments about the lack of balance in a July 24 article in The Advocate.

Seven Baton Rouge residents riding in the car were killed in the crash. Brenda Gaines, 64; Denise Gaines, 33; Diamond Johnson, 12; Jyran Johnson, 6; and Angela Matthews Mosely, 36, died in the wreckage of the car.

Two other passengers, Willie Gaines Jr., 15, and Rogerick Johnson Jr., 13, also of Baton Rouge, died at hospitals several days later.

Carmichael initially sentenced Gerald to 70 years in prison, but cut the prison term to 35 years after the state Supreme Court ruled that vehicular homicide is a crime of violence for which defendants must serve 85 percent of their sentences.

Under Louisiana’s good-time laws, Gerald would have been eligible for release for good behavior after he served 28 years. Damico said his client will be eligible for release from the 35-year sentence in about 29 years and nine months.