EBR judge defends sentence criticized as too lenient

Robber with lengthy record gets 3 years

Despite a prosecutor’s scathing contention that she sent the wrong message to people on both sides of the law, a judge in Baton Rouge is standing by her decision to sentence a Baker man with a lengthy adult arrest record to the minimum three years in prison in a 2010 robbery case.

State District Judge Trudy White also defends her actions in a two-page order rejecting the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office request that she resentence 20-year-old Dalvin Sewell, who was convicted in April of first-degree robbery and sentenced in October.

“The sentence is not an illegal sentence,” the judge stated in her Dec. 5 order, noting that the three-year term was within the sentencing range of three to 40 years.

Assistant District Attorney Adam Haney filed a motion last month urging White to reconsider the sentence, charging that “justice has not been done in this case” and accusing the judge of delivering a “loud and clear message to people on both sides of the law.”

“Offenders know that they can expect to receive the minimum sentence allowed by law even if they commit violent offenses, continually violate the conditions of their bonds, and refuse to take responsibility for their actions,” Haney said in his Nov. 12 motion.

“Law enforcement officers and prosecutors know that they can work diligently and go the extra mile to arrest and prosecute violent offenders, but that hard work will only result in a bare minimum sentence,” he added.

Sewell’s attorney, Rodney Messina, said Friday that Haney presented no new evidence for the judge to consider.

“There was argument only,” he said of the prosecutor’s motion. “All he had was arrests, no convictions.”

Sewell has been arrested as an adult seven times between January 2011 and October 2012 — the first time for second-degree battery and the last time for possession with intent to distribute a powerful drug, Haney noted in his motion.

“The defendant’s past actions have clearly shown that there is an extreme risk that he will commit another crime,” he argued.

White said in her order that she sentenced Sewell with the information she had at the time of his Oct. 15 sentencing.

“The Court gave appropriate weight to the facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal history of arrests (not convictions), his familial and educational background, the Presentence Investigation Report, and any aggravating or mitigating circumstances presented to the court at the sentencing hearing,” she wrote.

District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Thursday his office has moved on.

“We respect but disagree with the court’s sentencing,” Moore said. “We thought the sentence was inadequate.”

“It’s surely a legal sentence, one within the range,” he acknowledged.

Sewell’s criminal history includes a 2012 second-degree murder arrest in the September 2010 slaying of Darius Byrd, who was at the scene of the 2010 robbery less than two months before his death. Sewell has not been indicted or charged by prosecutors in the killing.

Haney has said the investigation into Byrd’s death is ongoing.

An East Baton Rouge Parish jury in April convicted Sewell’s co-defendant, Reagan Taylor, of the armed robbery of Edward Daniels but found Sewell guilty of first-degree robbery. Taylor was armed with a gun; Sewell was not. Byrd was with Daniels at the time of the robbery.

White sentenced Taylor to 10 years in prison. Armed robbery carries a sentence of 10 to 99 years.

Haney argued last month that the jury also should have convicted Sewell of armed robbery. The evidence, he said in his motion, showed Taylor and Sewell robbed Daniels of his prescription drugs and a gun.

Sewell and Taylor are appealing their convictions.

Sewell was arrested in March 2012 in the robbery of Daniels and in the later killing of Byrd. Sewell was 16 when Byrd was slain.

Sewell was driving a silver Camaro on Sept. 4, 2010, when someone inside the car pulled out a gun and shot Byrd in the neck, a warrant alleges. Sewell and four other men in the car had been looking for Byrd because Byrd had stolen a gun from one of the men, the warrant says. Byrd told the men he did not have it.

In April 2012, Messina won permission from state District Judge Don Johnson for Sewell to travel throughout Louisiana, Texas and California for concerts and recording sessions on behalf of his employer — No Limit Show/Recording/Video/Radio Promotions.

White revoked Sewell’s bond last December following his October 2012 drug-related arrest.