Appeals court halts sentencing of man accused of causing fiery crash that killed 5 people

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — An appeals court has halted sentencing of a man convicted of being drunk when he caused a fiery crash that killed five people on Interstate 10.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1qHz3ft ) David Leger's attorney, Jim Boren, filed a motion at the start of Thursday's hearing to recuse state District Judge Trudy White from sentencing Leger on five counts of vehicular homicide.

Boren argued that the motion had to be randomly assigned to another 19th Judicial District Court judge for a hearing, but White refused and denied the motion outright, saying she had done nothing improper. She also accused one of her election opponents, state Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, of playing politics in the case.

The state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal later in the day halted the sentencing hearing, saying the motion to recuse must be assigned to another judge for a hearing to determine whether White or some other judge will sentence Leger.

"He knows that he did something wrong and should be held accountable," Boren said of Leger, adding that Leger is grief-stricken and sad for the victims' families.

Williams represents Leger's co-defendant, Kelsye Hall, whom White convicted last year on five counts of negligent homicide and sentenced to two years in prison.

A jury convicted Leger, 32, of Palmetto, in July in the deaths of co-workers Effie Fontenot, 29, and Kimberly Stagg, 19, both of Prairieville, and Fontenot's children, Austin Fontenot, 3, Hunter Johnson, 7, and Keagan Fontenot, 11, on March 13, 2011.

Authorities and witnesses have said Leger and Hall, 25, of Baton Rouge, were engaged in a reckless and high-speed game of "cat and mouse" or road rage on Interstate 10 west when Leger's pickup spun out of control, crossed the grassy median and collided head-on with a car driven by Effie Fontenot on I-10 east between the Highland Road exit and the Ascension Parish line.

Leger faces a sentence of five to 30 years in prison on each vehicular homicide count.


Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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