Three people convicted of looting a liquor store in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last yearwere given the harshest sentence possible in a Louisiana court on Wednesday.

The three were convicted on May 2 of stealing 27 bottles of wine and liquor, six cases of beer and a case of wine coolers overthe course of a week after the storm first hit.

Coralnelle Little, Rhonda McGowen, and Paul C. Pearson, all of Kenner, La., received 15-year sentences.The district judgesaid he wanted to send a message with the sentences.

Pearson's lawyer called thesentences "excessive" and said he would appeal.

Attorneys for the trio had argued for a new trial on grounds that the state’s looting law was unconstitutional.

The looting statute, which carries a minimum sentence of three years, took effect just two weeks before Katrina battered the U.S. Gulf Coast.