Courtroom awash with emotion during sentencing

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By Carolyn Roy

carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

Heartache, sorrow and tension filled the courtroom Wednesday morning when Judge Harry Randow of Alexandria handed down a 25-year sentence to Andrew Jacob Wallace for the stabbing death of Dylan Poche in January of 2016. Assistant District Attorney Chris Guillet prosecuted the case in which Wallace pleaded guilty in August to a charge of manslaughter. Poche was fatally stabbed one time during a fight at a Sibley Lake Marina in January of 2016. Security was heavy in the courthouse halls and then in the small courtroom where the sentencing took place. There were from six sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom as well as two bailiffs.

Numerous other deputies were stationed in the main hall. Family and friends of the Poche youth, numbering around 50, filled the small courtroom with a few standing outside the door and in the hall. No family or friends of Wallace were in the courtroom. Wallace was clad in an orange and white jumpsuit and shackles and was seated next to his attorney, Robert Noel of Monroe. Noel was court-appointed. Wallace was silent throughout the proceeding that took just over an hour. It included four victim impact statements and comments by the judge. Dylan Poche’s youngest brother, Brady, said he and his family have suffered each and every day since the death of his brother.

“We struggle with the loss. His (Wallace) actions have changed my life forever.” Shelley Poche said Dylan was more than a stepson to her. “He was a part of my everyday life. He was my son. Our lives will never be the same.” She said she prayed to God every day for strength to forgive Wallace and asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence, without probation or parole. “I believe he will continue on a path of destruction.” Burt Poche found it hard to give his statement about the impact of his son’s death. Often sobbing, he said the death was like a dream. “It doesn’t seem real…I wish I had my son back.” He spoke of his son as a smart kid with a great future passion for life, fishing and hunting. “I will never get him back. It hurts so bad and I know I can’t do anything about it. I pray God gives us peace,” Burt Poche said. He also asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence of 40 years. Misty Ott said her son had morals and values and always wanted to make others smile. “Dylan loved his brothers more than anything. Sometimes I wonder why he hasn’t called me that day,” she said through her tears. Ott said she forgave Wallace for taking her son’s life but his family and friends would have a lifelong sentence. “I never knew pain like this existed.” Randow prefaced the 25-year sentence with several statements. In addressing those making impact statements, he said their courage and desire to speak were very important to the case. “This court has great empathy for all of you,” he said. “As the court approaches a day like today, we have asked God for wisdom.”

Randow acknowledged that Wallace had pleaded guilty and was assured that he understood his rights. In determining the sentence, he considered the pre-sentence investigation by the La. Dept. of Parole; the memorandum filed by Guillet; and the Legislative guidelines. Randow said the sentence was to deter future crimes, establish retribution and punishment and consider rehabilitation.

According to Louisiana statues, the sentence for manslaughter could have been up to 40 years. Randow sentenced Wallace to 25 years at hard labor, with five years suspended, credit for time served and active probation for 5 years. He said three of the factors in the sentencing were that a death resulted in a crime of violence, there was use of a dangerous weapon and the victim was active in the fight. He said Wallace had a severe substance abuse disorder and ordered him to participate in a treatment program while in prison. He said Wallace, who has a seventh grade education, should be evaluated for adult education and skills programs.

He listed several conditions for probation when that time comes: •$2,000 fine for court costs •$500 fine to public defender’s office •$75 monthly payment for probation and parole supervision He said Wallace should participate in an adult education program, be evaluated for technical college training, hold a full-time job or be a full-time student, serve 24 hours of community service, undergo drug testing, abstain from alcohol and drug consumption, not visit bars, lounges or casinos and have no contact with the victim’s family. He will also observe a curfew from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. subject to his probation supervision. “Events of youthful action played out in criminal court,” Randow said. “The central cause was the lack of maturity but the court still has a responsibility.”