NEW ROADS — The family and friends of a 23-year-old New Roads woman killed in a fatal collision three years ago are now calling the prison sentence handed down to the driver who pleaded guilty in the case a “miscarriage of justice.”
Debra Cushionberry, mother of Terri Parker, said her daughter’s convicted killer, Victoria Gosserand, is receiving special treatment while serving a three-year sentence at the West Baton Rouge Parish Detention Center.
Last month, District Judge Alvin Batiste sentenced Gosserand, 25, of Ventress, to five years in prison for her guilty plea to vehicular homicide in Parker’s death on Dec. 23, 2009.
The sentence runs concurrently with Gosserand’s three-year sentence for first-degree negligent vehicular injuring in the same case, court records show.
Prosecutors said Gosserand was driving drunk when she ran a red light at False River Drive and Hospital Road, crashing into the car Parker was riding in.
According to court records, Gosserand accepted a plea deal suspending two years of her five-year vehicular homicide sentence for time she already served in an inpatient treatment center.
Batiste ordered Gosserand to surrender to the West Baton Rouge Parish Detention Center on June 29, but the court records do not indicate why he sentenced her to that jail instead of the one in Pointe Coupee Parish.
Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Bud Torres said Monday he had no input in the judge’s decision, and declined further comment.
West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Mike Cazes did not return calls Monday seeking comment.
Court records show Gosserand is to serve her time “without hard labor.”
“Without hard labor,” said Thomas Bickham, undersecretary with the state Department of Corrections, means the state is relieved of its oversight of Gosserand’s prison sentence.
“Everything is left up to the sheriff to run,” Bickham said.
Approximately two weeks after reporting to the West Baton Rouge Parish jail, a news report aired on WBRZ-TV showing Gosserand walking outside, wearing plain clothes, and unshackled while being escorted by an unidentified man.
In the news report, Cazes, the West Baton Rouge sheriff, said Gosserand is a trusty in his work-release program, but she is not receiving special treatment.
Cazes also said Gosserand sleeps in a cell by herself and is the only female in the trusty program. The jail houses 500 inmates.
Cushionerry said Gosserand should be serving her time at the parish jail in Pointe Coupee Parish instead of the one in West Baton Rouge Parish.
“We know she’s getting special treatment,” Cushionerry said outside the Pointe Coupee Parish courthouse Monday morning. “How you gonna be in work release and you haven’t been in jail but two weeks?”
Approximately 25 of Parker’s family members and friends joined Cushionerry outside the courthouse on Monday.
The group stood along the sidewalk on Main Street in New Roads, waving signs and shouting “Justice for Terri!” as motorists cruised past the courthouse.
The handwritten signs included statements such as, “Don’t drink and drive and kill unless you have means and property like Victoria Gosserand,” “Commit the crime, do the time … real jail for Terri,” “We trusted the system and the system made … Gosserand a trustee,” and “Mike Cazes shame on you! Your job is to protect and serve … not let murderers roam free.”
Veleka Albert, who attended Pointe Coupee Central High School with Parker, said the WBRZ news footage angered her.
“She’s walking around and smiling like it’s OK,” Albert, 26, said. “It’s like she’s saying, ‘It’s OK, I have money. I can drive drunk and kill somebody.’ It’s just not fair to anybody. It’s a slap in the face and she will never learn her lesson if she keeps getting the treatment she’s getting.”
Gosserand will have to serve two years of supervised probation after she is released from parish jail and must have an ignition interlock system device installed on any vehicle she drives while on probation.
As part of her sentence, Gosserand is required to make public presentations through Mothers Against Drunk Driving to area high schools and elementary schools about the dangers of drinking and driving.
“What is she going to tell them?” Albert said. “That she went and got royal treatment? As long as your family has wealth, or is wealthy, it’s OK to do that?”
The group says they intend to keep holding rallies. West Baton Rouge Parish is next on their list, Cushionberry said.
“The last person to issue judgment on Victoria Gosserand is God, and God don’t show any favoritism,” said Jarryn Maloid, 26, a former classmate of Parker’s. “I feel she’s getting special treatment because of who her family is. If this happened anywhere else, she’d be doing time just like a regular person.”