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Man's violent past leads to habitual offender status, life sentence

5 months 2 weeks 5 hours ago May 10, 2016 May 10, 2016 Tuesday, May 10 2016 May 10, 2016 10:56 PM in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - A woman told News 2, the system failed her son after he was sentenced to life in prison for being a habitual offender. In court Tuesday, we learned more about Donald Dickerson's violent past.

In the more than two hour sentencing hearing Tuesday, Dickerson's defense attorney objected to nearly every piece of evidence that the prosecutors had presented. Documents traced Dickerson's extensive criminal history back to a purse snatching arrest in October 1989.

"October 11th, 1989, all the way through today, there hasn't been one day that Donald Dickerson hasn't been incarcerated or on parole in state or federal custody," Chris Hester with the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office said.

Dickerson's past is dotted with four other felony convictions including robbery, possession of a firearm by a felon, and a felony sex offense. The final conviction of second degree battery stems from a brutal attack on a family at a gas station, as they were on their way home from St. Francisville.

David Ray was brutally attacked and knocked unconscious. Ray testified that Dickerson told him he was "in the wrong neighborhood and wouldn't make it out" when he attacked him. The case drew national attention for its racial implications, though the district attorney chose later not to file hate crime charges.

While cameras aren't allowed in the courtroom, News 2's Brett Buffington was there when the judge told Dickerson that he was "the reason we have a habitual offender statute" and that he scared people in the community.

After the sentencing, Dickerson's mother told News 2 she didn't think her son deserved to spend the rest of his time in prison and that she believes the system let her son down.

"I think that he just needed mental health counseling," she claimed.

The mother did have a message for those her son attacked.

"To the family, I'm so sorry this happened," she apologized. "I am truly sorry".

Dickerson apologized for the attack himself in a letter to the court prior to the hearing, but the judge said Dickerson didn't take full responsibility of his actions.

Dickerson plans to appeal the sentence.

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