Drunk driver kills 7, family wants justice
5th November 2012 · 0 Comments
By J. Kojo Livingston
In Slaughter, Louisiana, people are up in arms about the handling of a case of vehicular homicide that left seven people dead. Issues of race and political favoritism are coming to a head.
On May 30 of this year Gaston Gerald celebrated his 30th birthday, got drunk and killed seven people. Gerald is white, the victims were all Black.
Brenda Gaines 64, was driving from church services in Clinton, Louisiana. In the car with her were her daughter, Denise Gaines, 33, a friend Angela Mosely, 35 and four children aged five, 11, 13, 15. Gerald veered into oncoming traffic running the car in front of Gaines off the road, and striking Gaines head-on, killing passengers instantly. Two others were brain dead and taken off of life support later.
According to the police report, Gerald came back with alcohol content .15, double the limit.
But Gaston Gerald is named after his grandfather, a former senator known to have strong political connections. This is why the family believes this case is not being handled properly. After killing five people instantly and critically injuring two others, Gerald was released the next day on a $256,000 property bond.
What the family did not know at the time was that this was not Gerald’s first arrest for intoxicated driving. “He had three prior arrests, one from 2004,” says John Thomas Gaines, Jr., the son of Brenda Gaines. He has been thoroughly researching this case because of irregularities that started coming to his attention early on. According to John, in the 2004 incident, Gerald refused to blow into a breathalyzer and was sent into a DWI diversion program.
“In 2008 Gerald had another DWI arrest on the same highway he killed my mother on,” Gaines told the Sun. “He veered into the opposing lane, slid down the side of a vehicle, continued on, running several other vehicles off the road. He refused the breathalyzer even though cops smelled alcohol and observed slurred speech. The D.A. reduced the charges saying he had insufficient evidence to prosecute.” Later it was discovered from reliable sources that DA, Sam Dequillo was related to Gerald. When confronted with the information Dequillo reportedly refused to recuse himself.
Because of Gerald’s political ties the family is concerned that justice will not be served. According to Gaines’ research, Gerald’s grandfather and namesake was a three-term senator and a Baton Rouge City Council member. In 1979 he was convicted of trying to bribe the Baton Rouge City Council around the building of the Baton Rouge Civic Center. He extorted money from contractors to raise the bribe money. He was convicted and still received his salary from the senate while in federal prison. Once released he ran a third term and won.
The family says they have not been notified of changes in hearing dates or other important information about the case. “The police report does not tell the story of how bad it was,” says Gaines, who claims that testimony of key witnesses that were at the scene was excluded from the reports.
“Even the media refused to acknowledge political ties, until we held our first protest, with signs saying ‘No Political Favors,” says Gaines. “The only reason he is in jail now is because the last teenager died and we protested.”
The family wants Gerald prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That’s why they are concerned about a status conference that will be held this week between the judge and DA regarding what charges will be brought forth. Gerald has pled not guilty.
“They can give him seven counts of vehicular homicide the judge can give him five years on each count. That’s 35 years, he could do half of that and get out, with credit for time served. We think he should serve a life sentence. He has shown no remorse or emotion in the courtroom.”
Local activist Tawana Green of Black Women R.O.C. – Reframing our community, and New Orleans activist Raymond Brown are working with the family.
This article originally published in the November 05, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.