5-year sentence for driver who plowed into parade crowd

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — A man jailed after drunkenly plowing his pickup truck into a crowd of New Orleans parade-goers last year faces roughly three more years behind bars.

Neilson Rizzuto, 26, was sentenced Friday for the accident that injured more than 30 people along the route of the popular Endymion parade during last year’s Mardi Gras season.

State District Judge Ben Willard sentenced Rizzuto to five years, but suspended one year and gave credit for about 11 months already served.

Rizzuto pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts of negligent vehicular injuring and 14 related misdemeanor counts in October at a hearing marked by emotional testimony from victims injured in the Feb. 25 crash.

Willard also ordered Rizzuto to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Mothers Against Drunk Driving meetings, and write apologies to victims, according to District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Twenty-three people were hospitalized after the crash. Authorities said Rizzuto had a blood-alcohol level of .232 percent, nearly three times the level considered proof of intoxication, at the time of the crash.

New Orleans news outlets reported that, in court, Rizzuto apologized and said what he did will haunt him forever. He read off the names of all the people he injured from a yellow legal pad.

“It was never my intention to cause harm to anyone. If I could change the events of that day I would. I am truly sorry,” he said, according to an account of the hearing by nola.comThe Times-Picayune.

Each felony count carried a five-year sentence. Rizzuto, who is from the south Louisiana town of Paradis, also was sentenced to six months for the misdemeanors. Willard ordered that the sentences be served concurrently

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