Judge imposes gag order in Fontenot trial

The judge in Seth Fontenot’s trial has imposed a gag order as Fontenot’s attorney seeks to quash the teen’s indictment on murder and attempted murder charges in a Feb. 10 shooting in south Lafayette, according to documents filed Thursday.

Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Kristian Earles signed the gag order Monday to bar Fontenot’s legal defense and prosecution, family friends and others involved in the case from talking about it publicly.

The judge’s order was made public Thursday.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Garber requested a gag order soon after the former University of Louisiana at Lafayette freshman’s arrest.

Garber and Fontenot’s attorney, Thomas Guilbeau, previously had agreed to a self-imposed silence regarding the case, which has drawn intense interest in the community and heavy coverage by the news media in Acadiana.

Fontenot was arrested Feb. 10 for an early morning shooting in which freshman Austin Rivault, 15, was killed and two other teens were wounded as they drove away from the home Fontenot shared with his family.

Guilbeau, in a motion filed Thursday, asked Earles to throw out a Lafayette Parish grand jury’s Feb. 21 indictment of Fontenot. Guilbeau claims the grand jury was improperly vetted before its members were empaneled.

Guilbeau said Magistrate Judge Thomas Frederick told him no effort was made to verify whether jurors serving on the grand jury that indicted Fontenot told the truth in response to a question of whether there were felony convictions in their past.

“Magistrate Frederick explained that he made no effort one way or the other to ascertain the veracity of the question …that the juror not be under in dictment for a felony nor have been convicted of a felony for which he has not been pardoned by the governor,” according to Guilbeau’s motion.

The document said Guilbeau and his team have made efforts to investigate the background of jurors, and three of them, plus an alternate juror, have names associated with felony records.

Guilbeau asked Earles last month to authorize a national database search to investigate the four grand jury members.

He asked Earles again in the motion Thursday to order a National Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems background check of the jurors.

If there is not national search, the motion said, the “defendant intends to subpoena all 12 grand jurors and four alternate grand jurors to question each one individually.”

Fontenot is out of jail on a $700,000 bond, and does not reside in Lafayette.

In setting bond in February, Earles stipulated Fontenot must move from the subdivision where the shooting occurred.

Police have said in an affidavit that Fontenot confessed to firing three shots from his Beretta handgun at a fleeing vehicle in the early morning hours of Feb. 10.

According to the affidavit, Fontenot fired at a vehicle “he believed to contain suspects” whom he had seen on his property, where his truck had been broken into multiple times.

Fontenot told police he intent was “to only scare the victims, not to inflict bodily harm and/or death,” the affidavit said .