Man testified against 2 who were acquitted
A Baton Rouge man who turned state’s evidence and was hoping for a 10-year prison term was hammered Tuesday by a judge who gave him a tongue-lashing and a 32½-year sentence for his role in the 2007 robbery-slaying of two LSU graduate students from India.
Attorney Jim Holt, who had asked state District Judge Chip Moore to give Devin Jamell Parker a suspended sentence, said he will ask the judge to reconsider the punishment.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III stressed afterward that Parker deserved to be punished for his role in the crime but said he believes the judge was too harsh.
“I respectfully disagree with the term of incarceration given Parker’s level of cooperation and his commitment to stand before his two co-defendants and the public to tell of everyone’s involvement in this horrible crime,” he said.
“Despite Parker’s numerous statements, which understandably contain some inconsistencies, he never wavered as to the basic, essential facts including the identity of all involved.”
Parker’s case should not deter other defendants in criminal cases from entering into plea arrangements, Moore said.
He said the facts and testimony of each case, and how they are viewed by a sentencing judge, are different.
“The state will continue to be fair to those who agree to cooperate to bring others to justice,” Moore said.
Moore said Parker was wise to plead guilty and agree to cooperate.
“Should Parker have gone to trial, I am convinced that he would have been found guilty,” he said.
Parker, 24, pleaded guilty in 2011 to one count each of armed robbery and accessory to second-degree murder in the high-profile case and testified earlier this month against two men he implicated in the Dec. 13, 2007, robbing and killing of Kiran Allam, 33, and Chandrasekhar Komma, 31, inside Allam’s unit at the Edward Gay Apartments on the university’s north side.
An East Baton Rouge Parish jury acquitted Casey Jermaine Gathers and Michael Jermaine Lewis, both of Baton Rouge, on Oct. 7 on two counts each of second-degree murder.
Attorneys for Gathers and Lewis said after the trial that the inconsistency-riddled statements Parker gave police armed jurors with all the reasonable doubt they needed to find the two men not guilty.
Prosecutor Steve Danielson told Judge Moore at Parker’s sentencing that Parker “has cooperated with us every step of the way.”
“I believe he has told the truth,” Danielson said while conceding that Parker’s initial statements in 2008 contained some “lies.”
The prosecutor said he believes Parker’s 2011 statement was truthful, and he said he believes Parker is remorseful.
The judge, who presided over the trial of Gathers and Lewis and heard Parker’s police statements and testimony, disagreed with Danielson on each of those points.
“At best Mr. Parker told only half-truths” in an attempt to “get the best deal possible,” Chip Moore said. “This is not a person ridden with guilt.”
The judge sentenced Parker to 30 years without benefit of parole on the armed robbery charge and 21/2 years on the accessory charge, and ordered the terms to run back-to-back.
He did give Parker credit for the more than five years he has spent in jail in the case.
Armed robbery carries a sentence of 10 to 99 years in prison without benefit of parole; accessory to second-degree murder is punishable by up to five years.
In an April motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, Parker claimed Holt, his defense attorney, promised he would receive a 10-year sentence for merely pleading guilty.
Parker withdrew the motion in July.
Parker’s June 27, 2011, plea agreement — signed by Parker, Holt and Danielson — stated Parker must provide complete and truthful information to authorities and at any grand jury proceeding and trial.
“The defendant acknowledges that there is no agreement with the State of Louisiana as to the actual sentence that will be imposed by the Court ... and that no promises or assurances have been made to him as to what the sentence will be,” the agreement states.
It was filed into the court record Sept. 9.
Parker testified at the trial of Gathers and Lewis that he was intoxicated when he, Gathers and Lewis forced Allam and Komma into a small apartment.
He said Allam cried out for help as he tried in vain to flee before being shot to death by Gathers.
Parker told the jury he was outside the apartment when Komma was shot.
Hillar Moore and Beau Brock, one of Gathers’ attorneys, both said after the trial that the jury had a problem with Parker’s description of the car in which he, Gathers and Lewis allegedly were riding around town the night of the double-murder — a description that differed from that provided by other witnesses.
Parker initially told police the trio was traveling in Lewis’ orange car, then said they were in Gathers’ blue car.
Several witnesses, including an LSU Police officer, described a suspicious-looking car in the Edward Gay parking lot as being white or light-colored.
There was no DNA or fingerprints linking Parker, Gathers or Lewis to the crime scene.
Hillar Moore said he respects the jury’s decision but maintains the right persons were indicted in the case.
Gathers, 25, is now a free man.
Lewis, 24, still faces a second-degree murder charge in an unrelated killing and remains in custody.
Editor’s note: This story was modified on Oct. 30, 2013, because a quote was misattributed to District Attorney Hillar Moore III. It was Judge Chip Moore who said: “At best Mr. Parker told only half-truths” in an attempt to “get the best deal possible. This is not a person ridden with guilt.”