Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Woman whose false 'rape' cry led to lover's death sentenced to 5 years in prison

A woman whose false claim of rape led to her lover's death was sentenced to five years in prison Monday evening. Tracy Roberson dropped her head as State District Judge Louis Sturns read the verdict. Afterward, her family members screamed in anguish outside of the courtroom. The Tarrant County jury, which deliberated for longer than two hours, declined to grant Mrs. Roberson probation, deciding instead she should serve time in prison.

Mrs. Roberson, 37, was convicted Friday of manslaughter in the 2006 shooting death of Devin LaSalle. Prosecutors said it was Mrs. Roberson's husband, Darrell, who fired the fatal shot but only because his wife falsely claimed she was being raped. Mrs. Roberson will be eligible for parole in 2 ½ years. After the sentencing, she was allowed a few minutes to hug her daughters and husband goodbye. A tearful Mrs. Roberson took the stand in her own defense Monday, saying her actions led to her lover's death.

"I never meant for any of this to happen," Mrs. Roberson said. "I am so sorry. If I could trade places right now, I would. I never meant for Devin to lose his life."

Mr. LaSalle died in December 2006 after Mr. Roberson shot him outside the Robersons' south Arlington home. Mr. Roberson fired after he returned home from a card game and caught Mr. LaSalle and his wife – who was clad in only a bathrobe and underwear at the time – together in Mr. LaSalle's truck. Mrs. Roberson claimed she was being raped. Mr. Roberson was charged with murder, but a Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict him. Instead, it indicted Mrs. Roberson on a manslaughter charge. During her two-hour testimony Monday, Mrs. Roberson told the jury she began dating Mr. LaSalle shortly after they met in September or October 2006 when he struck up a conversation with her at a store. She later learned they had children in the same school in Mansfield. Mrs. Roberson, a mother of three, said Mr. LaSalle was flattering, flirtatious and attentive. She also testified that she had no friends before meeting Mr. LaSalle. "He made me feel like a different person. He gave me a lot of compliments," Mrs. Roberson said. "Devin said a lot of things that I never heard. I know it was wrong to have an affair. If I just kept walking that day, we wouldn't be here right now."

Mrs. Roberson, who has reconciled with her husband and moved to Frisco, said Mr. Roberson used to abuse her, and once pulled a gun on her during an argument. During trial testimony last week, prosecutors portrayed the housewife as a woman who cried rape to save herself. On the 911 tape from that night, they said four minutes passed before Mrs. Roberson mentioned that a man had been shot outside of her home. Mr. LaSalle was a 32-year-old Hurricane Katrina survivor who moved to North Texas after losing his home in New Orleans, his family and friends said. The father of three was a driver for UPS and coached his sons' sports teams. Jurors heard about two families left fractured by the shooting. Mr. LaSalle's 12-year-old son, Kendall, cried on the stand Monday as he described the last evening he spent with his father at a Cowboys-Saints football game. His father, he said, cried when one of the Saints players gave his son a football jersey. "It was first time I'd ever seen him cry," said Kendall. "He said he was glad that his kids could get the best in life. All I could do was cry, too." Mr. LaSalle's mother, Carla LaSalle, showed family snapshots to the jury, including photos of Mr. LaSalle as a baby, a big brother, athlete, fisherman and father. "I just want this to end," she said. "I don't want anybody else's mother to go through what I went through. No one can get off scot-free. A man was killed." Mrs. Roberson's oldest daughter, Quintoria, testified that her mother was active with the PTA and vital to her academic success. She said she had turned down a full academic scholarship to care for her younger sisters in case her mother went to prison.

Comment: Note the defense: the woman claims her husband abused her. She was the victim. And note the sympathy for her as a mother. Somehow it is impossible to fathom the same article being written if the genders were reversed.