CLINTON, LA (WAFB) - A judge sentenced Brett Gerald, the man who was driving drunk when he crashed into a car and killed seven people, to 10 years in prison on each count to be served consecutively.
Judge William Carmichael ruled five years of each sentence must be served without the possibility of parole, Gerald must pay a $2,000 fine for each of the seven counts and enter a substance abuse program. He faced anywhere from five to 210 years in prison.
It was an emotional day in court for relatives of the seven people killed in the tragic crash. They were there to make statements before the court. They spoke to Brett Gerald in court, saying they forgive him.
"I could see remorse in him. Actually, he was crying when I was talking but he's got a long time now to think," John Gaines, Sr. said.
And for the first time, the victims' families listened to Gerald as he addressed the court. He asked for forgiveness from all involved, asked for mercy and said he was ready to take full responsibility for his actions.
Gerald left the East Feliciana Parish Courthouse in tears after learning he would spend a minimum of 35 years in prison. Relatives of the victims walked out of court carrying a large painting depicting all seven of their loved ones lost in the wreck.
Gerald's relatives gathered with the Gaines and Mosely families outside the courthouse, apologizing for what their loved one did and telling them they pray for them every day. While relatives are relieved their days in court are over, not all of them feel justice was served.
"How many lives have to get taken for the max to get? Is it twenty people you have to murder before you get the max sentence? I don't know, what is it," Marcus Gaines asked.
The 30-year-old Greensburg man pleaded guilty in December to seven counts of vehicular homicide. The charges stem from a tragedy in Slaughter last May. Police said Gerald's blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit the night of the crash. Seven people were killed, six from the same family, as they returned home from church.
Grandmother Brenda Gaines was driving her daughter, Denise Gaines, and Denise's four children, Diamond Johnson, Jyran Johnson, Willie Gaines and Rogerick Johnson, Jr. Also in the vehicle was a fellow church member Angela Mosley.
The group killed in the crash was headed back to Baton Rouge from a bible study in Clinton. Brenda, Denise, Diamond, Jyran and Angela were all killed instantly in the crash. Willie Gaines was taken off life support June 3, 2012. His family decided to donate his organs. Rogerick Johnson, 13, was later taken off life support and also died.
Investigators believe Gerald was out celebrating his 30th birthday and was under the influence of alcohol. After testing his blood alcohol content, police said Gerald's BAC was .15g percent, which is nearly twice the legal limit of .08g percent.