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HomeNewsArchivesRepeat Violent Offender Gets 40-Year Sentence for 2009 Shooting Death

Repeat Violent Offender Gets 40-Year Sentence for 2009 Shooting Death

Turning down a chance to show remorse or apologize in Superior Court Wednesday, violent repeat offender Richie Fontaine stood and listened with no expression as a judge sentenced him to 40 years in prison for his involvement in the shooting death of Phillip George at a Smith Bay strip club in March 2009.
“I did not fire any shots that night,” Fontaine said Wednesday in his last chance to address the court before Judge James Carroll III decided the size and scope of his punishment.
Carroll said he saw the video evidence showing Fontaine with a gun during a shootout that left George dead and another man seriously wounded with a bullet in his head. Fontaine, his posse and others are said to have shot 90 rounds into the crowded club. He was convicted on April 10.
“These are very serious crimes and they carry very serious penalties,” Carroll said before handing down his final decision, sentencing the 22-year-old to a 10-year prison term for voluntary manslaughter, 15 years for assault, 20 years for possessing a dangerous weapon during the commission of a violent crime and five years for reckless endangerment.
Carroll folded the manslaughter and assault charges into concurrent sentences, making for a total of 40 years behind bars. That’s on top of a 15-year sentence Fontaine received last week from Judge Michael Dunston for an armed robbery and shooting he was convicted for earlier this year.
In tears, Fontaine’s mother asked the court to understand that she lost control of her son when they migrated from Dominica.
“When you tell them to go this way,” she said, “they go this (other) way. You can’t stop it.”
“I tried my best,” she said as she turned to Fontaine and told him she would be there for him “no matter what.”
“Richie, when you go there, there are criminals in there, and there are good people in there. You stand up to them. If they want you to fight, don’t fight back. You can turn them in,” she said. “Do something for yourself so that when you come back out things will be different for you.”
It might be a long time before Fontaine gets out, though. Sentenced to a total of 55 years already, Fontaine has yet to be sentenced on a federal weapons charge in an unrelated conviction. He is also awaiting trial on charges related to at least two other shootings, one of which included a 10-year-old boy who was hit with a stray round in a school bus.
“He is not contrite. He is not sensitive to the fact that he has ruined many lives,” said prosecutor Claude Walker, while successfully arguing for the stiff sentence Wednesday. Walker argued strongly for the maximum of five years for reckless endangerment for Fontaine’s part in shooting up a club full of people.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘What kind of a society are we trying to develop?’” he said. “It could have been an enormous massacre,” he said.
“We clearly need to look to the court to say… this cannot stand!” Walker said.
"This defendant … is not the callous and heartless individual that the media and the court has portrayed,” said defense attorney James Bernier, who argued that Fontaine was a family man, supports his family in Dominica, and reads the bible. “He prays,” Bernier said.
As Bernier argued for a lenient sentence that would allow for rehabilitation, Judge Carroll interrupted.
“Rehabilitation is only one goal of sentencing. Punishment is another,” he said. “In this case, punishment is an important goal, as is deterrence.”
Fontaine was originally charged with first-degree murder, but a deal offered the jury the charge of voluntary manslaughter if they didn’t think Fontaine had intentionally plotted to kill George after the two exchanged heated words at Club Lexus in Smith Bay.
Carroll said that based on the evidence presented during the trial, Fontaine could have been charged with more than voluntary manslaughter – suggesting the original murder charge. And for that, Carroll said, Fontaine already got a break.
“Mr. George was entitled to his life,” Carroll said. “And you and the others took away his life.”

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