Attorney: Man deserves less time for 7 deaths

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. Show caption
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.

Appeals court upholds seven consecutive 5-year sentences

An attorney for a Greensburg man whose 70-year prison sentence was cut in half last year said Monday he’ll ask Louisiana’s top court to reduce the term even further in a 2012 alcohol-related crash that killed seven Baton Rouge residents.

The state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal on Friday affirmed Brett G. Gerald’s convictions on seven counts of vehicular homicide and the consecutive five-year terms he received on each count. Gerald pleaded guilty to the charges in December 2012.

John Gaines Jr., who lost his mother, sister and sister’s four children in the head-on collision in Slaughter, on Monday called the appellate court ruling “a victory for the family.”

“Definitely good news! Definitely!” Gaines said.

Tommy Damico, who represents the 31-year-old Gerald, said he will first ask the 1st Circuit to reconsider its decision. If that fails, he will ask the state Supreme Court to look at the case.

“We think the substantive issue still needs to be addressed,” he said.

Damico contends state District Judge William Carmichael erred in sentencing Gerald to consecutive terms of imprisonment on each count when all counts and charges arose from a single act.

Without ruling on that argument, the appeals court said it could not review Gerald’s challenge to his new sentence because Gerald did not ask Carmichael to reconsider the new term.

Gerald had asked Carmichael to reconsider the original 70-year sentence, and the judge reduced it to 35 years.

“I think it should have been somewhere between five and 30 years,” Damico said.

Gaines maintains Gerald — who had three other DWI arrests before the May 2012 collision and one conviction — should not have been resentenced in the first place.

“That’s why we took the position we did,” he said.

Family members of the victims have said they want Gerald to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Carmichael has said he never intended for Gerald to do that.

The judge has said the new sentence — 35 years instead of 70 — will result in approximately the same prison release dates for Gerald as those in the original sentence.

Carmichael sentenced Gerald in March 2013 to serve seven consecutive 10-year sentences, specifying that five years of each 10-year sentence — a total of 35 years — would be served without the possibility of probation or parole.

But seven days after Gerald’s sentencing, the state Supreme Court ruled in a Morehouse Parish case that vehicular homicide is the type of violent crime for which state law requires a defendant to serve at least 85 percent of a sentence.

The judge then resentenced Gerald last May to five years on each of the seven counts, with the sentences to run consecutively. Gerald must serve 85 percent of 35 years, or about 29 years and nine months.

Gerald’s pickup collided May 30, 2012, on La. 67 with a car carrying the seven Baton Rouge residents home from Clinton church services. Killed immediately were Brenda Gaines, 64; Denise Gaines, 33; Diamond Johnson, 12; Jyran Johnson, 6; and Angela Matthews Mosely, 36. Two other passengers, Willie Gaines Jr., 15, and Rogerick Johnson Jr., 13, died several days later.

All but Mosely were members of the same extended family.

A state trooper who investigated the crash testified that an analysis of a blood sample taken at Lane Regional Medical Center shows Gerald’s blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent. In Louisiana, a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving.