GRETNA, La. -- Ronald Gasser, shackled and in an orange jail jumpsuit, stood silent and still as he learned his fate Thursday morning.
The 56-year-old telecommunications contractor, who pumped three bullets into ex-NFL standout Joe McKnight after the two men engaged in a high-speed game of cat and mouse on the west bank in December 2016, will spend the next 30 years behind bars.
Judge Ellen Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court handed down the sentence after hearing nearly 30 minutes of emotional victim-impact statements from McKnight’s family. Gasser faced a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison after he was convicted of manslaughter in January.
While Gasser was silent, McKnight’s mother was not.
Through tears Jennifer McKnight told Gasser she was relieved that he would spend the next three decades behind bars. But, she added, she still aches knowing her son is gone forever.
“That day is the day I became numb -- numb to everything. I cry daily. I cry nightly,” she told Gasser as she looked him in the eyes. “My child is not coming home at all. You took that from me.”
She left the courtroom after she made her statement. Her sobs could be heard from the hallway through the closed door.
Outside of the courthouse after the sentencing was over, she told reporters she wanted to finally face the man who killed her son.
“I wanted him to see the pain I’m feeling,” she said.
Asked if Gasser seemed remorseful, she said no.
Matt Goetz, Gasser’s attorney, told Kovach his client was sorry for what he did. The judge, however, rebuffed that comment, saying that a statement from Gasser in his pre-sentencing report gave no indication he was apologetic.
Goetz sought to delay the sentencing by filing a motion for a new trial. Kovach quickly denied that effort and noted she had not yet read the document.
At the closing of the sentencing, Goetz noted his objection to the 30 years. Michelle Quick, who is the mother of Joe McKnight’s 9-year-old son, was escorted out of the courtroom by a deputy after she called Gasser an “asshole.”
She later told reporters that Gasser needs to “accept that you’re wrong.”
“Enough is enough. They keep trying to find a justification,” Quick said. “There’s no justification for taking somebody’s life.”
Quick said that while she was happy with the three-decade sentence, she will never feel a sense of closure.
“I'm grateful though,” she continued. “It could have gone so many different ways, but I'm grateful the age the man is now and the sentencing is going to be the majority of his life.”
Jennifer McKnight said the road-rage incident that sparked the shooting is a lesson she now shares with students she works with.
“I tell the kids in the school system that I work at there's a consequence to everything that you do,” she said. “Think clearly before you do it, because the consequences may not be what you think it's going to be. It could be worse than what you think.”
Even though it’s been more than a year since McKnight was killed, the episode still haunts his son, Quick said.
“I can't be in a car. If we're driving and someone honks at me, he says, ‘Mom, stop! Don't react, you don't know if they have a gun.’”