PORT ALLEN — West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Mike Cazes denied Tuesday that a Ventress woman convicted of causing a fatal traffic accident that killed a New Roads woman Dec. 23, 2009, is getting special treatment during her sentence at the parish prison.
District Court Judge Alvin Batiste last month sentenced Victoria Gosserand, 25, to serve five years in the West Baton Rouge Parish Detention Center for vehicular homicide in the death of Terri Parker, 23.
Gosserand’s sentence runs concurrently with her three-year sentence for first-degree negligent vehicular injuring in the same case, according to court records.
Court records state that Gosserand accepted a plea deal that suspended two years of her five-year vehicular homicide sentence for time she served in an inpatient treatment center.
Prosecutors charged that Gosserand was driving drunk when she ran a red light at an intersection in New Roads, crashing into the car in which Parker was a passenger.
Authorities previously reported that Gosserand’s blood-alcohol content was 0.30 percent, or nearly four times over the legal limit.
According to minutes from the sentencing hearing, Parker’s family told the judge they agreed with Gosserand’s plea deal.
The stipulations surrounding Gosserand’s sentence recently were called into question by Parker’s relatives and friends after a news report that aired on WBRZ-TV showing Gosserand being escorted outside of the prison in plain clothes and unshackled.
At a rally held outside of the Pointe Coupee Parish courthouse on Monday, Debra Cushionberry, Parker’s mother, questioned why Gosserand was sentenced to the West Baton Rouge prison instead of serving her time in the Pointe Coupee Parish Jail.
Parker’s relatives believe the decision was made in order to provide Gosserand with special treatment, which they say was evident in the news footage that many said “shocked” and “angered” them.
“It was an agreement between the lawyers and the courts that she serve time here because I have a newer, and safer, facility,” Cazes said on Tuesday. “It’s no big deal. They called me to hold her here. We do that every day.”
District Attorney Ricky Ward said he didn’t know why the judge sentenced Gosserand to Cazes’ prison but that it wasn’t unusual for Gosserand to end up at the West Baton Rouge Jail “under the circumstances.”
Ward added he didn’t serve as the lead prosecutor in the case.
“That was not part of the plea agreement — not that I’m aware of,” Ward said in regard to Gosserand’s prison assignment. “If they would have asked me, I probably would have said it didn’t matter as long as she was in jail.”
Judge Batiste could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Officials in his office said he would be out all week.
Cazes said Gosserand is not in the prison’s work release program, referring to the previous reports that implied differently.
The sheriff said she is one of 70 trusties who work for eight hours a day outside of the prison.
“I have trusties that work at the courthouse, I have trusties that work at the community center ... and at the body shop,” Cazes said. “Eight hours a day, she goes and does clerical work at the work release building.
“I have a guy doing time for DWI — 25 years. He’s a paint and body man at the body shop. He got certified in prison. Do you utilize that talent or do you let it go to waste in jail?”
Cazes said every trusty is transported back and forth to the prison in plain clothes under escort of prison wardens.
“This is nothing unusual whatsoever,” he said. “At the time she was placed and booked in jail, her rights were taken from her. There is no special treatment so help me God.”
Because Gosserand was sentenced to serve her time “without hard labor” officials with the state Department of Corrections said oversight of Gosserand’s prison sentence is left up to the sheriff.
Gosserand sleeps in a cell by herself “for her own protection,” Cazes added, because he wanted to ensure no one would attempt to physically assault her.
“It was strictly for her safety,” he said.
The sheriff said he is frequently approached by families who ask that inmates be housed at his facility for convenience, but maintains that wasn’t the case with Gosserand.
“I’ll help anybody,” he said. “We do it all day long. But I haven’t done anything that nobody else does — as far as housing other inmates.”
Parker’s relatives said Monday they intend to host another rally in West Baton Rouge Parish soon.