Neilson Rizzuto, the man who plowed into a crowd of revelers at the Endymion parade while driving severely drunk in February 2017, will be released from jail on July 20, according to Louisiana's Department of Corrections.
In January, Criminal District Court Judge Benedict Willard sentenced Rizzuto to five years but suspended one year and gave him credit for the 11 months in jail he has already served. He also ordered Rizzuto to serve one year of probation upon his release.
Rizzuto's early release was expected due to state law for non-violent crimes, which make offenders eligible for release when they have served 35 percent of their sentence with good behavior.
At least 32 people were injured when Rizzuto, 26, drove his pickup into a crowd at North Carrollton and Orleans avenues to watch the parade roll by on the night of Feb. 25, 2017.
Screaming victims were left pinned under trucks or inside cars. Paramedics stationed nearby swung into action in a massive effort to save the victims’ lives. They ultimately succeeded, although many were left to cope with gruesome injuries.
At the time of sentencing, several crash victims expressed disappointment at Rizzuto’s punishment, which came at the end of one of the most high-profile criminal proceedings of the past year.
“I’m not happy with the sentence,” said Mario Basantes, a tourist from New York City who was injured along with his wife. “I’m not comfortable with it, because he’s only going to do six months, a year, and he’ll be out back out on the street. I’m still not healed. I probably will never be healed.”
Almost a year after he plowed into a crowd of revelers at the Endymion parade while driving severely drunk, Neilson Rizzuto was sentenced Frid…
Willard gave Rizzuto a five-year sentence for each of 11 felony counts of first-degree vehicular negligent injuring, and five months for each of 14 misdemeanor counts of vehicular negligent injuring. All the sentences were to be served at the same time.
In a statement, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said that he shares the frustration of crash victims with the length of the sentence imposed by Willard.
“I would rather see more consideration given to crime victims than to those who harmed them through criminal acts,” he said.
In delivering the sentence, Willard said he had given consideration to the pain the victims have suffered.
“Many of these victims unfortunately suffer pain and have lifetime scars because of the actions of an individual who decided to drink and drive,” Willard said. “On the other hand, we have a defendant who appears in court and is free from any and all prior convictions, be it felony or misdemeanor.”