Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information
One day after Tashonty Toney pleaded guilty as charged to two counts of vehicular homicide in connection with the March 2 drunk driving crash that killed two and injured seven cyclists on Esplanade Avenue, Criminal District Judge Laurie A. White imposed the maximum prison sentence of 90 years.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro issued the following statement Tuesday (Oct. 29) in response:
“This past March 2 was one of New Orleans’ darkest days in recent memory, as nine innocent people riding their bikes home after the Krewe of Endymion’s Mardi Gras parade had their lives either ended or drastically altered because of the actions of one selfish and thoughtless drunk driver.
“Two people – 27-year-old Sharree Walls and 31-year-old David Hynes – lost their lives that night. And seven others were injured, many quite severely, as they were struck from behind by a car that veered into their bike lane at around 80 mph, carving a five-block path of damage and destruction down Esplanade Avenue.
“Yesterday, that car’s driver, Tashonty Toney, took responsibility for this horrific crime. He pleaded guilty as charged to two counts of vehicular homicide, admitting his responsibility for this crime of violence in which his blood alcohol concentration exceeded 0.20. Mr. Toney already had pleaded guilty as charged last week to 14 other charges spawned by this incident, including six counts of first-degree negligent vehicular injuring and seven counts of hit-and-run.
“It was only by the grace of God that more of these victims escaped with their lives. But for the ultimate loss of Ms. Walls and Mr. Hynes, the law was clear that a significant penalty must be incurred.
“No amount of prison time will bring these victims back. But today I applaud Criminal District Judge Laurie A. White for making the difficult but correct decision to impose upon Mr. Toney the maximum sentence of 90 years for this inexcusable offense. This defendant’s expressions of remorse provide little comfort for the loved ones of those lost, nor to the victims who survived. He deserves the punishment that has been imposed.
“Twice in the past three years, our city has seen a pall cast over Mardi Gras celebrations because of the poor decisions made by a drunk driver. Neilson Rizzuto injured more than two dozen people when he plowed his truck into a crowd enjoying the Endymion parade in 2017. It was something of a miracle that no one lost their lives that night, but many lives were forever changed. The incident involving Mr. Toney, unfortunately, delivered even more heartbreak.
“If there is to be any positive to come from these tragic events, please let it be a deeper realization that driving while impaired is not worth the potential risk, to yourself or to innocent others whom your decisions might affect. This goes for any night of any month, not simply the holiday seasons that are fast approaching or the Mardi Gras weeks ahead. Do not drive when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Do not make others pay the price these families have been made to endure. And do not place your own life and liberty at risk when ride-share options and taxis are so readily available.
“As this case concludes today, I want to commend those citizens who kept Mr. Toney on the scene of his crash, the solid investigation put together by the New Orleans Police Department on this incident, and the outstanding work of Assistant District Attorneys Jason Napoli and Hilary Khoury in presenting a case so solid that the defendant knew it would be folly to contest at trial.”
Media note: A video clip featuring a portion of this statement is posted on the OPDA’s YouTube channel here, and is available for public use.
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