Devin Badon has been sentenced to five years for negligent homicide in the shooting death of Stephin Bergeron in April 2011.
Two of those years are suspended which means he only serves three. And because he gets credit for the 17 months he has served, Badon could get out on parole next month.
Badon was not the trigger man in the killing of Bergeron. Still, the judge, district attorney and the family of the victim all agree, but for the actions of Badon, Stephin Bergeron would still be alive.
Badon's trial for murder resulted in a mistrial after the jury could not agree on a verdict. Badon pleaded to negligent homicide rather than risk being convicted of murder in a new trial. A second-degree murder conviction brings an automatic sentence of life in prison.
Bergeron's mother, Christy, told Badon in court she will never forgive him. "They came up to my house, lured him outside, shot my son and left him in a ditch to die. And Devin sends letters to my house saying how he loved my son like a brother. But yet Devin left him in a ditch to die and went home and went to sleep. What kind of person does that?"
Bergeron said her son's death has devastated the lives of her family members. "It's destroyed our family. My kids are suffering every single day. They don't have a brother. My son's gone. I sit at the cemetery every day and I will for the rest of my life. I'm in therapy every single week. I have to take medications for my nerves just to be able to stay sane," said Bergeron.
Defense Attorney Todd Clemons disputes that Badon killed anybody even though he did get someone to buy the bullets. "Just because someone has bullets and a gun, in order to be a principle to a homicide, you have to intend when you purchase those bullets or assist in the purchasing, you have to have the intent to kill someone. Devin had no intent for Stephin Bergeron to be killed. The record is clear that my client did everything he could to avoid the confrontation that night. He was harassed, he was hounded," said Clemons.
Clemons says the plea entered by Badon is not an admission of guilt. "He didn't want to take the risk of going to trial. He never admitted to any killing. He didn't admit at all that he killed Stephin Bergeron. That's why we chose to enter an Alford plea. He chose to plead guilty because the state made him, under the circumstances, what we felt like was a reasonable offer. As his attorney, I advised him to take it and he took my counsel and took my advice," said Clemons.
In sentencing Badon the way he did and adding five years probation, Judge Kent Savoie said he can keep Badon "under his thumb" longer. Christy Bergeron is pleased with that. "The judge can impose the harsher sentence on him. And he's had too many times when he's just gotten slapped on the wrist," said Bergeron.
The man who allegedly did pull the trigger, David "Dice" Fontenot, is charged with second degree murder and set to stand trial in November.
Another factor that could cause Badon to be behind bars longer is a hearing in Cameron Parish Oct. 22.
The judge there will decide whether to revoke his probation for burglary and add those years to his sentence for negligent homicide.
Judge Savoie also ordered Badon to contribute $2,500 dollars for a headstone for Stephin Bergeron and imposed other requirements. He must also pay a $1000 fine, plus court costs, plus all costs of counseling for Christy Bergeron up until now and for one year from now.
After Badon is out of jail, he must also provide a list of 30 organizations he can go to help educate troubled teens about the trouble he got into because of drugs and the bad choices he made.
Savoie said in court, that if he had simply given Badon the maximum sentence of five years that Badon would get out after two and a half and then be outside his authority. Savoie said by handling the sentence the way he did, he can exert control over Badon for five years after he completes his sentence.
Savoie also ordered Badon to have absolutely no contact anyone connected to the case.
Early in the sentencing hearing, Badon apologized in open court. He asked for forgiveness and said that he wished he had taken steps to stop the escalation of events that led to the killing of Bergeron.