Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office on Tuesday (April 9) secured guilty pleas from two New Orleans teenagers who kidnapped a woman motorist at gunpoint to escape from an auto accident scene last December in Gentilly.
Brandon Dean, 17 and pictured above, and Dwayne Fortenberry, 15, entered their guilty pleas before Criminal District Judge Laurie White. Their sentences will be imposed by White on May 1.
Dean pleaded guilty as charged to second-degree kidnapping and possession of a stolen firearm. He faces 5 to 40 years in state prison on the first count, and 1 to 5 years on the second.
Fortenberry, in accordance with the victim’s wishes and in recognition of his cooperation with authorities, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of simple kidnapping. That crime is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
According to New Orleans police, Dean and Fortenberry were driving in a blue Mazda CX5 when they ran a red light and crashed into a white Jeep Laredo at the intersection of Leon C. Simon Drive and Press Street around 1:45 p.m. on Dec. 27, 2018. They ran from the crash, and forced their way into a red Hyundai sedan driven by a 38-year-old woman after Dean pulled a black gun from his waistband. The teens ordered her to drive them to the Upper 9th Ward, then fled from there on foot.
“My life became injected with fear. And for about two months, I couldn’t drive my car alone,” the woman wrote in a victim-impact statement entered into the court record. “Every time I drive past the place that this all happened, I try not to shake in fear. I think about the day I witnessed a terrible accident and decided to get out of my car to help save someone from a smoking car, only to be confronted with a gun. … Since that happened, I second-think helping people who may be hurt or in danger, out of fear for my life.”
The woman said the younger Fortenberry “appeared to be very remorseful” during the kidnapping.
“He apologized to me repeatedly and expressed the same feeling of fear,” she wrote. “I tried to engage the other guy, but his demeanor was cold.”
Cannizzaro said the incident was emblematic of New Orleans’ worsening problem with violent teens.
“I’ve said for months that violent juvenile offenders pose the greatest crime problem New Orleans faces in 2019,” Cannizzaro said. “The catch-and-release approach being pushed by some is failing these at-risk children and backfiring dangerously upon our citizens. By foregoing personal accountability and discipline, this city is creating a brazen population of delinquent teens emboldened by the lack of meaningful consequences for their criminal behavior.”
New Orleans had 735 juvenile felony cases in 2018, nearly exceeding the 776 amassed in 2016 and 2017 combined.
“I hope this result begins to send the message that such conduct will not be tolerated in our city,” Cannizzaro said. “We are most thankful that this young mother did not lose her life during this terrifying ordeal.”
Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Livanos prosecuted the case.
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