Caitlin Barnett and friends John Michael Chargois, Paul Helton and Bonnie Mugg allegedly had quite a Labor Day Weekend last year. Police say various combos of those four young twentysomethings spent the three-day holiday driving around Rice campus and the Gulf Freeway area, shooting people with a BB gun drive-by style.
Barnett was a Rice student at the time; her three cohorts were not. She and Chargois were implicated in all of the reported attacks. Four people were hit on the cinder track that rings Rice; others were shot in the Village, a window was shot out on Bissonnet, and several cars were shot at over on the East Side. None of the victims required medical treatment.
Eventually one of the Gulf Freeway victims got a plate number. That same victim had heard about the attacks in the local media, so they notified Rice police, who were able to piece together the BB spree.
By the end of September, the entire quartet had been arrested and charged with aggravated assault, a felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison. And now all the separate trials have concluded and the verdicts are in.
Chargois, Helton and Mugg were all convicted of aggravated assault. They all got five years community supervision, and are now convicted felons.
Thanks to the efforts of attorney Dorian Cotlar, Barnett is not.
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Last month, the now-former Rice student -- it was reported that she withdrew from school shortly after her arrest -- was able to plea-bargain the charge down to misdemeanor assault.
This despite the fact that she was one of two of the four to have allegedly taken part in all of the attacks, and thus presumably at least a partial ring-leader. At any rate, she got two years probation and won't be a felon, unlike her friends.
Looks like even a partial Rice education is worth quite a bit in this town...(Barnett did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
And if any lawyer in town could sympathize it would be Cotlar, who has had some serious vehicular issues of his own. The former Harris County assistant district attorney was asked to resign from the office after a 2006 road rage incident, and was subsequently convicted of failing to stop and render aid after a separate incident involving a collision on Westheimer. That misadventure also found him accused of flashing a prosecutor's badge to police in order to get out of submitting to a sobriety check.