Three Katrina Looters Receive 15-Year Prison Sentence for Stealing Booze

Three people convicted of hauling away liquor, wine and beer from a grocery store after Hurricane Katrina were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The judge said Wednesday he wanted to send a message that looting would not be tolerated when he gave the maximum sentence to Coralnelle Little, 36, Rhonda McGowen, 42, and Paul C. Pearson, 36.

A jury convicted the trio May 2 on a portion of the state's looting law that took effect two weeks before the Aug. 29 storm. The amended law set a three-year minimum sentence, and a maximum of 15 years in prison, for looting during a declared state of emergency.

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They were convicted of attempting to leave the grocery with 27 bottles of liquor and wine, six cases of beer and one case of wine coolers, six days after Katrina made landfall.

Little, McGowen and Pearson each testified that they were not looting, but they offered conflicting accounts of matters such as who drove to the store.

Pearson's attorney, Bruce Netterville, said the sentence and conviction would be appealed.

"We believe the sentence is excessive," said Netterville.

Attorneys for the other defendants agreed.