Teen gets 30 years in N.O. abduction, rape

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A 16-year-old boy, the youngest of three teenagers charged in the rape, abduction and robbery of a woman in New Orleans’ Garden District earlier this year, was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison as part of a plea deal.

Sheldon Jefferson also agreed to testify against 18-year-old Christopher Davis and a 17-year-old who both face charges in the February attack on a 30-year-old woman.

The plea deal came after two days of negotiations between state District Judge Franz Zibilich; Jefferson’s attorney, Morris Reed Jr.; and Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro. The victim and her family agreed to the sentence, which doesn’t allow for the possibility of parole.

Zibilich told Jefferson that the rape was “the worst of the worst” and said he wanted to sentence the teenager to “70, 80, 90 years or more” had the victim not recommended the 30-year term.

“You know, sir, you participated in and perpetrated one of the most horrific crimes of this building,” the judge said. “And you know what I don’t understand? I don’t understand why — I can’t even imagine — what would possess someone like you and these other two accused perpetrators to commit this crime. Why? Do you have any explanation at all?”

“No, judge,” Jefferson replied.

In exchange for Jefferson’s guilty plea and testimony, Cannizzaro agreed to reduce his charges from four counts of aggravated rape to four counts of forcible rape. He also reduced the original aggravated kidnapping charge to second-degree kidnapping. His armed robbery charge remained unchanged.

All three teens were linked to the crime through DNA evidence, prosecutors said.

“Considering the evidence in this case — recorded confessions, DNA evidence, potential victim testimony, etc. — it was in my client’s best interest to accept the plea deal that I negotiated on his behalf,” Reed said in a statement.

Prosecutors said two of the three teens approached the woman on Feb. 4 as she walked from her car to her home. She was forced at gunpoint into a nearby car that authorities say was driven by Davis. They then drove her around for an hour, with Jefferson and the 17-year-old — accused of wielding a pistol — sexually assaulting her, authorities say. They also allegedly stopped by ATMs to force her to withdraw cash.

Her attackers then took her back to her block, pushed her out of the moving car and stole her vehicle, authorities say. The woman was treated at an area hospital for cuts, bruises and scratches.

Jefferson, who was 15 at the time, was the first to surrender after his mother saw his image on a video authorities distributed to the media from one of the ATMs.

Jefferson told investigators he and the 17-year-old raped the woman while Davis drove, Assistant District Attorneys Donald Cassels III and Jason Napoli wrote in a court filing. He also said it was the 17-year-old who kicked the woman out of their moving car, snatched her keys and stole her vehicle.

“Tough day for you today, sir, but not nearly as tough as what you did to this woman for the rest of her life,” Zibilich said. “You shouldn’t tell me you’re sorry. You should tell her you’re sorry. You want to tell her you’re sorry?”

Jefferson, wearing orange Orleans Parish Prison scrubs and a long cross necklace, turned to the rear corner of the courtroom, where the victim was seated.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

As the judge read Jefferson’s sentence, Jefferson’s mother, who had brought her son to police after recognizing his image in the news, sobbed and said, “No, no, no.”

Cannizzaro declined to comment on Wednesday’s plea, saying he would wait until the other two defendants’ cases had been resolved.

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