The driver of a vehicle that struck and killed East Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso and injured his friend last June was sentenced Thursday to 90 days in jail for his conviction on reckless operation, a significantly less serious offense than his initial arrest on negligent homicide and an offense that Amoroso's widow called a "perversion of justice."

Nicholas Alexander, 21, of Lafayette, will serve only 12 days of jail time because some of his sentence was suspended and he received credit for time served, said West Feliciana District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla. Alexander served three days in jail after his initial arrest in the crash.

D'Aquilla said Alexander was also fined $200.

Alexander on Thursday also entered a no contest plea to an additional charge of negligent injuring, which D'Aquilla filed against him for the injuries of Tom Clement, who was biking with Amoroso when the crash happened. 

The district attorney said the sentencing for that is scheduled Jan. 24. He said there was no specific reason for the delay in the additional charge, noting his office had just put it to the side.

Alexander was initially arrested on negligent homicide in the June 30 crash, but a grand jury decided to instead charge him with the lesser offense of reckless operation. 

"The family was devastated for a second time today," said Mike Smith, a close friend of the Amorosos and a public relations consultant. "The major question that lingers is how does someone go to jail for negligent homicide, only to walk out of the courthouse with a very light sentence. That's a very difficult pill to swallow."

While some details about the wreck have been disputed — with some evidence conflicting with parts of Alexander's initial statements — investigators were able to determine that Alexander was going the speed limit at the time of the crash and was not intoxicated. However, they also noted he did not brake until after contact. 

Alexander's Chevrolet Tahoe hit Amoroso and Clement on La. 66, the two-lane road known as the Tunica Trace Byway, running north of St. Francisville to the main entrance of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. His SUV struck the cyclists from behind while they were traveling single file, State Police reported. Amoroso died at the scene; Clements was flown to the hospital.  

Amoroso's wife, Denise Amoroso, delivered a statement in court Thursday and questioned why the story Alexander told authorities changed over time and was not accurate.

"I forgive you … but that does not mean you are excused from killing my husband," Denise Amoroso wrote in her statement. "True repentance is telling the truth about what happened Saturday morning, June 30."

"You must realize you did not just kill a man on a bike. You killed a husband, son, father, grandfather, brother, friend and a public servant who was admired by the citizens of Baton Rouge," she said. 

Denise Amoroso, who is now serving the remainder of her husband's term on the East Baton Rouge Metro Council, called Alexander's conviction a "perversion of justice." She said a charge of negligent homicide would have been more appropriate given the circumstances. 

"The thought that you killed somebody and all you have to serve is 12 days — it just makes your head shake," she said after the hearing. "And I put that at the feet of the district attorney."

Alexander's sentence Thursday was the harshest possible under Louisiana law for reckless operation. But the sentence for negligent injuring — the additional charge brought Thursday — can include a fine of up to $500 and jail time of up to six months. 


Follow Grace Toohey on Twitter, @grace_2e.