29 Nov 2022

Ōtahuhu homicide: Chauntel Laurent sentenced as accessory after death of Peter Rasmussen

4:56 pm on 29 November 2022

By Craig Kapitan of NZ Herald

The High Court at Auckland

Chauntel Laurent appeared in the Auckland High Court today. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

A single mother-of-five accused of driving Crips gang members to the home where 75-year-old south Auckland rugby league stalwart Peter Rasmussen was fatally shot last year has been sentenced to time served.

Chauntel Laurent pleaded guilty in October to being an accessory after the fact to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily injury.

She returned to the High Court at Auckland today as Justice Ailsa Duffy ordered a seven-month prison sentence, noting that the approximately four months she has already spent in custody already qualifies her for release under the Parole Act.

Justice Duffy said she would have considered a sentence of home or community detention, with the aim of helping Laurent with her rehabilitation, but her options as a judge were limited because it would not be the least restrictive outcome.

"You will need to distance yourself from the negative influences in the future," she warned.

Rasmussen died just days after the nationwide Covid-19 Delta variant lockdown began in August 2021, but it would be four months before police arrested three men aged 30, 22 and 19. The three remaining co-defendants, all charged with murder, have pleaded not guilty and await trial next year.

In court today, Justice Duffy said Laurent had been dating a member of the Crips gang who was alleged to have been seeking retribution after a person was robbed while selling methamphetamine. It was not alleged that Laurent participated in a conspiracy to seek retribution, but she was driving the vehicle on the day of Rasmussen's death as men visited his house.

The men were looking for another man who was believed to be living at Rasmussen's address, but after exchanging words with the 75-year-old at his door step one of the assailants opened fire, police allege in court documents. Rasmussen was shot in the leg and died a short time later.

"You heard a gunshot and someone yell, 'I've been shot,'" Justice Duffy told the defendant today.

But Laurent said she didn't know about a gun until just after they arrived at the property. There was little opportunity at that point, the judge acknowledged, not to assist.

"Undoubtedly, there was serious harm caused by the principal offending, and that is very clear," the judge said. "However, your role in the offending is minor."

Laurent moved to New Zealand from the United States when she was 12 and had her first child when just 15, a pre-trial report noted. She was convicted of aggravated robbery in 2006 and threatening behaviour in 2017, but she was a low risk of reoffending, the report stated.

She was a regular user of methamphetamine at the time of Rasmussen's death.

Rasmussen was a stalwart of the rugby league community, having helped coach and mentor many national rugby league legends - including five players who went on to serve as captain of the Kiwis, the national rugby league team.

The meat processing plant worker spent six decades at Ōtāhuhu Rovers Rugby League Football Club, where he started as a young player and later coached. Even after his coaching tenure ended, he stayed active with the club, attending games every weekend up until his death and helping to mentor.

"He was one of the old school hard men of rugby league, and in life generally," club president Wallace Dumper told the Herald several days after his death. "He could say what he liked to anybody and they would just stand there and listen."

In a victim impact letter read in court today by the Crown, Rasmussen's son, Wade, described his father as a good, hard-working man who loved his family.

"He had mana," Wade Rasmussen wrote, adding that it was something the defendants would never have.

He recalled how his father would show up for a visit at 3:30pm sharp every Sunday for a visit. Now he looks at the clock at that time every Sunday and thinks of his father's horrific last moments.

Defence lawyer Michael Kan later turned in his seat to address Rasmussen's son directly in court.

"My client has asked me to tell you that she's very sorry for the loss you've suffered," he said.

"She's hoping whatever happens today to her, she's wanting to change her life."

This story was first published on the New Zealand Herald.

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