LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A year ago, this month, a man tried to rape two women in South Lake Charles within an hour time span. That man, Richard Wayne Barras, now stands unanimously convicted on two counts of attempted first-degree rape, and the prosecutor will try to get the harshest sentence possible.
When first arrested, Barras denied trying to rape the two women who lived in two different areas of South Lake Charles.
"I didn’t try to rape nobody, okay?” he said in a recorded video interview with police.
Barras' story, called preposterous by the prosecutor, was that he was running through one of the neighborhoods because his angry girlfriend was after him.
“What I did was come from my girlfriend’s house, and I ran man. I ran because she was mad at me. She was following me man,” Barras told the veteran detective interviewing him on video.
“He said his girlfriend, who was never his girlfriend, and certainly wasn’t at this point in time, lived near, depending on where you asked him, both scenes. They’re miles apart. She never lived within five miles of them. So, it was all just ludicrous,” Calcasieu Chief Felony Prosecutor Jacob Johnson said, who hopes to put Barras away for life.
“The charge carries a sentence of between ten and fifty years for each count, sentencing discretion of judge," Johnson said. “This defendant has a lengthy criminal history. Early next week I’ll be filing a habitual offender bill. I will be seeking life imprisonment because I believe our community needs to be protected from Richard Barras for the rest of his life.” Barras’ previous convictions are primarily burglaries.
Defense attorney, public defender Steven Coward, said he’ll argue for a lesser sentence. He had this reaction to the verdict.
“I’m not really surprised. I thought it might go that way. We put up a good fight as best we could, but the jury spoke, that’s the big determination,” Coward said.
While Coward said there are possible grounds for a successful appeal, he hopes the verdict brings closure.
"It's a sad case for everyone involved. The poor ladies who had to testify, for the families of the victims, for the family of my client, for my client," he said.
Prosecutors say the testimony of the two victims was corroborated by other witnesses and evidence. Both women are now in their seventies.
State law allows more serious charges for attempted rape committed against people over 65 and children.
Barras is set for sentencing at 8:30 in the morning on Friday, May 24.
For more on the closing arguments, follow Theresa Schmidt’s Twitter feed from the courtroom.