It’s been over a week since Judge Harry Randow issued an order making all but 10 of the “sensitive” documents tied to the murder case against Seth Fontenot public, but the files remain under seal following a hearing Monday.
Randow — a retired judge from the 9th Judicial District who’s filling in for a recovering Judge Ed Rubin — made the order during a Feb. 2 hearing. At the hearing, Randow heard arguments from Fontenot’s attorneys and prosecutors, for and against, respectively, for the unsealing of the documents.
And on Thursday, Randow issued a written ruling, saying prosecutors had failed to show “an overriding interest in continuing to seal documents and closure of the criminal proceedings in this matter where the parties/witnesses/victims are no longer juveniles and the case ... is not a juvenile proceeding.”
Calling the decision an “error,” Assistant District Attorney J.N. Prather of the 15th Judicial District responded by filing a writ application with the Louisiana 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal requesting a review of Randow’s order.
According to the Advocate, Prather, during the Feb. 2 hearing, described the unsealing of the files as “once again victimizing the victims” in the case.
Those victims referenced by Prather are three teenage boys involved in an early-morning encounter on Feb. 10, 2013, outside the home Fontenot shared with his family on Green Meadow Road on Lafayette’s southside. Thinking the teens were attempting to break into his vehicle, Fontenot admittedly grabbed his Beretta and fired off three 9 mm rounds as the teens fled down his street in a pickup truck, afterwards telling detectives the gunshots were just an attempt at giving the boys a scare. The incident, however, ended in tragedy for one of the teens, 15-year-old Austin Rivault, who was struck in the head while riding in the backseat and killed by one of Fontenot’s bullets. The other two teens in the truck with Rivault — whose names have not been released but are now both 17-years-old — were wounded but survived the encounter. Their actions that night two years ago — specifically the hours leading up to and immediately after the shooting — are the likely subject of the case files in question.
Fontenot’s attorney, Thomas Guilbeau, has argued that these files are crucial to his client’s case.
Yet, despite Randow’s decision last week, the files have yet to be released, resulting in a hearing held throughout the afternoon on Monday that, according to the Advocate, ended with the judge deciding to wait for the 3rd Circuit’s decision before following through on his ruling last week.
Though prosecutors have taken the death penalty off the table, Fontenot is awaiting trial on first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder, and potentially, a life spent in prison.