Curtis Turner mug

Curtis Turner, via OPSO

More than 200 days after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the fatal hit-and-run killing of a bicyclist, Curtis Turner learned his sentence from a New Orleans judge Wednesday.

Criminal District Court Judge Benedict Willard sentenced Turner to 10 years in prison for the crash that killed artist Ben Gregory on Elysian Fields Avenue on July 6, 2015.

Turner has been in custody since he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in August and will receive credit for time served.

Willard did not explain the sentence after announcing it in court. The judge had not delivered a sentence at six previous court hearings after Turner pleaded guilty as charged without a deal from prosecutors.

Willard could have sentenced Turner to anything from no time in prison to 40 years. 

Turner, 48, shook his head after the judge announced the sentence, which left his lawyer disappointed but the victim's family satisfied.

"They're pleased with the outcome and believe that Judge Willard's sentence was fair," said Charlie Thomas, a lawyer for Gregory's relatives. "This result will ultimately allow them to have the closure they need from the loss of their family member."

"I'm not happy with the outcome," said Turner's attorney, Branden Villavaso. "After having an opportunity to sit down and speak with my client, we'll go from there."

Police said Turner hit Gregory with his Pontiac Vibe near Elysian Fields and Royal Street. Turner sped off, leaving Gregory to die on the scene. A Crimestoppers tip led cops to Turner's vehicle in the Lower 9th Ward, and he later surrendered.

Gregory's death devastated his community of Bywater artists and his family in North Carolina and New York. It also prompted a protest from bicyclists outside City Hall deploring poor safety conditions for them on local streets.

Willard's sentencing intentions had remained unclear through the numerous court dates.

However, a horrific March 2 crash on Esplanade Avenue — where a driver plowed through nine bicyclists, killing two of them — refocused public attention on cycling safety.

Thomas said that throughout the protracted sentencing process, Gregory's family feared the worst.

"They feared that maybe (Willard) was just going to give a slap on the wrist," Thomas said. "But the judge's sentence today reflects the priority of the rest of city leadership now following the Esplanade crash, in that people who ride bikes around the city should benefit from the same protections of the law as anybody else."


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.