Two men pleaded no contest to manslaughter charges stemming from a bar fight in November 2018 that resulted in the death of Ponchatoula man, according to District Attorney Scott M. Perrilloux.
Ryan Anthony, 26, of Albany, and Azia Crockett, 29, of Ponchatoula, were each sentenced to one year at hard labor with the Department of Corrections and were ordered to pay restitution for all funeral expenses for the death of 46-year-old Robert Bowers.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew S. Belser represented the State of Louisiana, while Judge Robert H. Morrison handed down the sentence.
According to a statement from Perrilloux’s office, Ponchatoula Police were dispatched to the Ponchatoula Pub in reference to a disturbance on Nov. 4, 2018. Upon arrival, officers found Bowers lying on the floor unconscious after a fist fight involving two other people, later identified as Anthony and Crockett.
Acadian Ambulance arrived at the scene and worked to resuscitate Bowers before transporting him to North Oaks Hospital. Bowers was later transported to University Hospital in New Orleans for further care due to having little or no brain activity.
Bowers remained on life support for three days before he was removed, Perrilloux said.
Based on an investigation by the Ponchatoula Police Department and subsequent interviews by the District Attorney’s Office, it was determined that Bowers and two family members watched the LSU vs. Alabama football game at The Depot.
After the game, Bowers and his niece walked over to the Ponchatoula Pub and sat down at the bar. Meanwhile, Anthony and Crockett were at Fleur de Lis, where Crockett was getting married. Following the nuptials, the wedding party also ventured over to the Ponchatoula Pub.
By this point, Bowers’ niece was highly intoxicated and caused a scene at the bar and was being escorted out of the Pub as Crockett and Anthony entered. As she exited the bar, Crockett’s new wife accused her of damaging her dress and an argument ensued and was taken outside of the bar.
The argument outside escalated, resulting in the police being called. Meanwhile, Anthony and Crockett returned inside to get Bowers, who had remained inside talking with others at the bar, with those people describing him “as being friendly and talkative.”
As Bowers got up to leave with Anthony and Crockett and they were walking out, independent witnesses confirmed that Anthony turned and struck Bowers once with a closed fist. As Bowers fell to the floor and struck his head against a table, Crockett then got on top of the now unconscious Bowers and struck him multiple times before he was pulled away.
Following the incident, Anthony and Crockett spoke with Ponchatoula Police Department detectives regarding the incident and admitted to punching Bowers, stating that Bowers spit in their faces during an argument.
Each of the independent witnesses interviewed by authorities stated that they never saw Bowers do anything to provoke Anthony or Crockett, Perrilloux said.
Investigators were unable to retrieve any surveillance or cell phone videos of the actual encounter between the defendants and Bowers. The only videos to surface were all after the fact.
On Nov. 6, 2018, detectives were notified that Bowers died from his injuries sustained from the fight involving Anthony and Crockett, and two arrest warrants for manslaughter were drafted.
Both Anthony and Crockett turned themselves in at the Ponchatoula Police Department the following day. Both were booked accordingly and transported to the Tangipahoa Parish Jail.
An autopsy revealed that Bowers died as the result of a subarachnoid and intraventricular hemorrhage caused by blunt force trauma to the head. A neuropathologist also determined that if Bowers was already unconscious when he hit the floor, then the hemorrhage that ultimately caused his death had already occurred.
On March 8, 2019, the Tangipahoa Parish Grand Jury indicted both Crockett and Anthony for manslaughter, which Louisiana law defines “as a homicide committed, without any intent to cause death or great bodily harm, when the offender is engaged in any intentional misdemeanor directly affecting the person (i.e., a battery).”
On Sept. 29, 2020, Anthony and Crockett pled no contest to manslaughter, and sentencing was set for Nov. 5. On that day, the Bowers family provided victims impact statements to the court and the defendants apologized to the family while also addressing the court.