Almost one year to the day of his March 22, 2012 conviction for aggravated battery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Joseph Blueford received his sentencing Thursday in a Bastrop Fourth Judicial Court courtroom.
Judge Wendell Manning sentenced Blueford to life in prison plus 65 years for shooting into a crowd outside the Town House club in Bastrop from a vehicle, on New Year's night, Jan. 1, 2011.
Fourth Judicial Assistant District Attorney Steve Sylvester said Joseph Blueford, 32, was originally charged with two counts of attempted second degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. After sitting through a two day trial and then five hours of deliberations, the jury returned with a guilty verdict for lesser charges, which none the less, still carried sizable sentencing. Aggravated battery carries a maximum 10-year sentence, while possession of a firearm by a convicted felon carries a maximum 20-year sentence.
Sylvester said Blueford was offered a plea bargain before the trial began and turned it down. Ironically, the charges he was found guilty of were the charges offered to him in the plea bargain, which rendered a lesser sentencing.
"He didn't believe us [on state winning case]," Sylvester said. "He would have received a maximum of 10 years for the one count of aggravated battery and no less than 10 for the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He could have been looking at a possible 30 year sentence."
Perhaps the reason Blueford turned down the plea bargain was because he could have been filed under the habitual offender act and received a life sentence anyway. Sylvester said in order for a habitual offender case to proceed, the suspect has to be found guilty of their latest charge.
"Let's say I have multiple convictions and I'm charged with two counts of attempted second degree murder," Sylvester said. "I have to be found guilty of a felony on my new charges for the habitual offender act to go through. If I'm found not guilty, I can't be tried as a habitual offender, no matter how many felonies I have."
He said even when a person is found guilty of a felony, after having two or more past felony convictions, proof has to be shown that they're a habitual offender.
Sylvester said although Judge Manning made the two sentences run concurrent, which means they'd run together and when one sentence is over, so is the other, this won't mean much for Blueford.
"In some states a life sentence is a certain amount of years. In the state of Louisiana, life means life," he said. "He'll finish his life sentencing on the day he dies."
With the life sentencing covering the entirety of Blueford's life, Sylvester was asked why the 65 years was tagged onto it.
"Judge Manning said the state carried the burden for this crime because Blueford was a four or more times offender [still walking the streets committing crimes]," Sylvester said. "He's done everything [crimes] under the sun. Judge Manning felt that he does not deserve to walk among the free anymore."