Fontenot faces resentencing, and unknowns

by Walter Pierce

Seth Fontenot will back before Judge Ed Rubin on July 23 after his attorney acknowledged in a court filing that Rubin’s original sentence — three years at hard labor with all but 13 months suspended — was illegal.

Will Judge Ed Rubin re-sentence convicted killer Seth Fontenot to the maximum term available on a manslaughter conviction — 40 years? Almost certainly not. Will he go with his original sentence of three years? Who knows? Not even the prosecutor and defense attorney.

But Fontenot will back before Rubin on July 23 after Thomas Guilbeau, Fontenot’s attorney, acknowledged in a court filing this week that Rubin’s original sentence — three years at hard labor with all but 13 months suspended, meaning Fontenot could spend as little as four months in prison — was illegal because state law prohibits judges from suspending parts of sentences if the defendant is being sentenced for a “crime of violence.” Manslaughter falls into that category.

Guilbeau says he will ask Rubin on the 23rd to sentence his client to the full 13 months, but says he has no idea what the judge will do.

“I hope he comes back and says 13 [months] but I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Guilbeau says. “I think the parameters are, validly and legally, between 13 months and three years [because of the original three-year sentence]. For him to come back [with longer sentence] he has to have something really dramatic that changed his mind about all this.”

The sentencing range for manslaughter is 0-40 years, so it’s possible but astronomically unlikely that Rubin would let Fontenot walk. Guilbeau believes the judge’s new sentence will be in line with his original sentence, although he predicts that Assistant District Attorney J.N. Prather will seek much more than the original three-year sentence. Prather declined comment to local dailies about what sentence the state would seek on the 23rd, although he told The Advocate that he believed Rubin’s original sentence with the suspension sent the wrong message about youth gun violence.

Prather’s point was not lost on this newspaper, which in an editorial last Friday argued that Rubin squandered an opportunity to speak to epidemic of gun violence in America in his sentencing of Fontenot. Although we don’t believe Fontenot deserves anywhere near the maximum sentence of 40 years for the death of 15-year-old Austin Rivault and the injuries to his friends Cole Kelley and William Bellamy, we do feel that serving as little as four months — hell, serving as little as three years — isn’t commensurate with the severity of taking a life, even if accidental.

Read Friday’s opinion, “Seth Fontenot: an opportunity squandered,” here.