DA’s office to appeal Seth Fontenot sentence

Seth Fontenot should have been sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for the manslaughter conviction of Austin Rivault and none of it should be suspended, Assistant District Attorney J.N. Prather Jr. said in court Wednesday.

Prather filed a notice to ask the Third Circuit Court of Appeal to review the sentence 15th Judicial District Judge Edward Rubin gave Fontenot Wednesday.

Rubin sentenced Fontenot to five years in prison, suspending all but 13 months. He could be out by Christmas.

Fontenot was booked Wednesday into the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center then transferred to the St. Martin Parish Jail.

A jury convicted Fontenot in March of manslaughter for the 2013 shooting death of 15-year-old Austin Rivault, along with two counts of aggravated battery for shooting two other teens he thought were breaking into his truck.

Rubin could have sentenced Fontenot to up to 40 years in prison.

Prather argued that a minimum of 10 years should have been given in this case,

He added that Fontenot could have even been given a minimum of 20 years in prison because he discharged a firearm in the act of committing a felony. based on Article 893 of the Criminal Code of Procedures, and none of the sentence should have been suspended because manslaughter and aggravated battery both are defined by Louisiana law as violent crimes.”

Katherine Guilbeau Guillot, one of Fontenot’s attorneys, said Thursday Prather would have had to invoke the provisions of Article 893, the firearms sentencing provision, before the trial began and he didn’t.

“We take the position that the judge’s sentence was fair and reasonable under the circumstances,” Guillot said.

If Prather files a writ with the appeals court, Fontenot’s attorneys should have the opportunity to respond, she said.

Photo courtesy: The Daily Advertiser
Seth Fontenot (Photo courtesy: The Daily Advertiser)

In handing down the sentence Wednesday, Rubin said the jury could have found Fontenot guilty of first- or second-degree murder, but found him guilty instead of the lesser charge of manslaughter. The jury did not believe he intended to kill Rivault or the two other teens, Cole Kelley and William Bellamy, he said.

Rubin also cited a psychologist who testified that a teenager’s brain is not fully developed and they’re prone to impulse and bad behavior. Fontenot was 18 at the time of the shooting.

Austin Rivault’s family released a written statement Thursday, their first comment since the sentencing.

Austin Rivault  Photo courtesy: The Daily Advertiser
Austin Rivault (Photo courtesy: The Daily Advertiser)

“We are appalled at yesterday’s ruling and the message Judge Rubin sent to this community: That 18-year-olds will not be held responsible for their actions, even when those actions include murder,” Kevin and Renee Rivault wrote.

“Judge Rubin showed a clear disregard for the lives of Seth Fontenot’s victims, who harmed or violated no one that night. Justice was denied to our families,” they concluded.

Fontenot claimed his truck had been burglarized several times when, in the early morning hours of Feb. 10, 2013, he heard someone pulling the handles of his truck’s doors. He said he grabbed a gun purchased by his step-father and went outside where he saw to figures get into a truck.

Fontenot said he fired three shots at the truck as a warning. All three shots hit occupants. Kelley, the driver, was shot in the ankle. The front seat passenger, Bellamy, was hit in the neck. Both were 15 at the time.

Rivault was hit in the head and died before reaching the hospital. The shooting occurred just a few doors from his parents’ Lafayette home.

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