Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office on Monday (Oct. 28) secured the guilty plea of a drunk driver who struck and killed two cyclists and injured seven others when he plowed through an Esplanade Avenue bike lane at high speed in March.
Tashonty Toney averted his scheduled trial Monday by admitting his guilt in the incident that left 27-year-old Sharree Walls of New Orleans and 31-year-old David Hynes of Seattle dead. The cyclists were struck from behind and killed in the 3300 block of Esplanade around 8:15 p.m. on March 2, 2019, shortly after the Krewe of Endymion’s Mardi Gras parade had passed through Mid-City.
“While I am pleased that our surviving victims and witnesses have been spared the trauma of reliving these events at trial, the sad truth is that the carnage this drunk driver left strewn in his wake nearly eight months ago cannot be undone by his guilty plea,” Cannizzaro said.
“This was one of the most horrific events our city has seen, and marked the second time in three years that the selfish and irresponsible conduct of one impaired driver has caused such devastating injury, expense and heartache to so many innocent people celebrating the Mardi Gras season. As another holiday season approaches, the warning cannot be more clear: Do not drive while impaired. Do not put your life and the lives of others at risk.”
Seven other cyclists were injured as Toney’s black 2018 Camaro tore a five-block path of destruction before crashing on a neutral ground. Among the others struck and injured were two 28-year-old women, a 31-year-old man, a 62-year-old man, a 53-year-old woman, a 56-year-old woman, and a 27-year-old woman who was hurt less severely than the others. Toney’s car also struck several parked vehicles as it tore down the street at speeds in excess of 80 mph.
Toney, 32, pleaded guilty as charged Monday to two counts of vehicular homicide with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 or greater, qualifying the offense as a crime of violence under Louisiana law. The designation triggers enhanced minimum penalties and reduced “good time” credits during Toney’s incarceration.
Toney faces 5 to 30 years in state prison for each of the two deaths, and state law requires those sentences to be served consecutively. Criminal District Judge Laurie White is expected to impose the sentence after the conclusion of victim-impact statements and testimony in support of the defendant on Tuesday.
Toney faces additional penalties after pleading guilty last week to other charges related to the incident: Six felony counts of first-degree vehicular negligent injuring, one misdemeanor count of vehicular negligent injuring, and seven misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli prosecuted the case.
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