Judge grants bail for fatal crash figure
In an abrupt about-face, the judge who recently convicted a Baton Rouge woman in a fiery 2011 Interstate 10 crash that killed five Ascension Parish residents has pushed back the sentencing to the fall and allowed her to remain free until then.
When state District Judge Trudy White found Kelsye Hall guilty Aug. 9, she denied the 24-year-old a post-trial bail, had East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies take her into custody, and scheduled her sentencing for Aug. 20 without ordering a presentence investigation report.
But after meeting Friday with Hall’s attorney and the prosecutor, White ordered the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections’ Office of Probation and Parole to prepare such a report in advance of the new Oct. 22 sentencing date.
Hall, who was found guilty on five counts of negligent homicide, is now free on a $50,000 bail.
She faces up to five years in prison on each count.
Hall’s attorney, Alfred C. Williams, argued in a motion filed Aug. 9 that Hall is neither a flight risk nor a danger to any other person or the community.
Prosecutor Ron Gathe argued at trial that Hall and David Leger — who did not know each other — were engaged in some sort of road rage situation and recklessly driving west on I-10 not far from the Highland Road exit on March 13, 2011. Leger’s pickup truck clipped the front of Hall’s sport utility vehicle, crossed the grassy median and collided with an eastbound car, killing the car’s five occupants, he said.
The victims were Kimberly Stagg, 19, and Effie Fontenot, 29, both of Prairieville, and Fontenot’s three young sons: Austin Fontenot, 3; Hunter Johnson, 7; and Keagan Fontenot, 11. Effie Fontenot, who was driving the car, and Stagg both worked at Frank’s Restaurant on Airline Highway in Prairieville.
Leger, 31, of Palmetto in St. Landry Parish, is charged with five counts of vehicular homicide and faces five to 30 years in prison on each count if convicted.
State Police said he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent at the time of the crash. In Louisiana, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving for those 21 and older.
Leger’s next court date before White is Nov. 12.