The Third Circuit Court of Appeal has upheld Seth Fontenot’s 13-month sentence for the February 2013 shooting death of 15-year-old Austin Rivault of Lafayette. The district attorney’s office argued the sentence was too lenient.
Fontenot’s attorney Thomas Guilbeau says this is one of the toughest cases he’s ever worked in his 48-year career. But from the start, Guilbeau says he never believed this was a first-degree murder case.
“These boxes represent three years of hard work, over 68 motions filed, ” said Guilbeau as he pointed to a table filled with documents, “and a just verdict at the end of the day.”
Fontenot’s mother Brooke Talbot said she heard the news late Thursday afternoon.
“I stopped by and ran into Tom’s office and started hugging him. Of course, we were both crying.”
Last March a jury found Fontenot guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 13 months at the LaSalle Correctional Center in Olla. The district attorney’s office appealed the sentence. It argued that Fontenot used a gun while committing a felony and, therefore, the sentence was illegal and too lenient.
In an interview with KLFY in July 2015, Austin’s parents said they were appalled by the sentence.
“That’s an insult. Austin was worth more than 13 months. Any life is worth more than 13 months.”
Fontenot’s attorney’s Thomas Guilbeau and Katherine Guillot argued that the sentence is legal and fits the crime and that the appeal was not was not filed properly or on time.
“It was prosecutorial overreach to ever charge him with first-degree murder and the jury agreed with us. They (prosecution) did not choose to put a 20-year enhancement penalty into it and when they failed to do that they gave up the right to argue that to the third circuit.”
Fontenot’s Mother, Brooke Talbot says while she’s relieved that Seth will be released in May, she says her heart will always be with the Rivault family.
“Austin, he’s always on my mind his parents his family constantly I pray for them that one day they can move on. We just ask for forgiveness and a part of them will always be in our hearts.”
According to the third circuit’s written response handed down Tuesday, if the prosecution filed the proper document at the right time requesting a longer sentence for Fontenot, he would have received, “no less than 20 years for his offense without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.”
KLFY reached out to the DA’s office Thursday evening but did not receive a response. However, they did tell News Tens partners at the Daily Advertiser that they plan to look over the decision and speak with the victims before making a decision to appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court.