The man who killed a Maryland police officer while driving drunk, catalyzing a crack down on drunk drivers in the state, pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter Thursday.
Luis Gustavo Reluzco, 47, made the plea to the fatal crime that left Officer Noah Leotta dead just days after a law inspired by his death passed the Maryland legislator, reports The Washington Post. Reluzco did not get a reduced sentence as part of the plea agreement with prosecutors and faces a maximum of 10 years behind bars.
“My client is destroyed by what occurred on the night of Dec. 3,” John Roth, Reluzco’s attorney, told The Washington Post. “He makes absolutely no excuse for his actions on that night.”
Governor Larry Hogan is expected to sign Noah’s Law, which will require anyone in the state convicted of drunk driving to have a breathalyzer installed in their car. The device will prevent the car from starting unless the driver passes the breathalyzer test.
Leotta, with the Montgomery County Police Department, was on a volunteer holiday drunk driving patrol December 3 when the incident happened. Reluzco slammed into the back of Leotta’s cruiser, who was standing outside the car conducting a traffic stop on the side of the highway. Leotta died a week later from the severe injuries.
Reluzco admitted to police he smoked marijuana, took the prescription drug Xanax and drank heavily at a Hooters before getting behind the wheel. He blew a 0.22 on a breathalyzer test, putting his blood alcohol level at almost three times the legal limit, reports NBC Washington.
Reluzco’s lawyer says he has fully cooperated with police since his arrests, answering all their questions with detailed answers. Roth says Reluzco’s choice to plead guilty and accept the plea deal six weeks before the scheduled trial stemmed from wishing to spar Leotta’s family the “excoriating agony” of reliving the details of the fatal crash.
“From the onset, he has admitted his guilt,” Roth told The Washington Post. “He’s trying to do the right thing. He’s never run away from accepting responsibility for his actions.”
In the wake of Leotta’s death his family took up the cause against drunk driving, pushing Maryland legislators to crack down with stricter laws. Noah’s Law passed in Maryland April 11. (RELATED: Six Year Battle Results In Maryland Crack Down On Drunk Driving)
Rich Leotta, Noah’s father, is still reeling from the tragic loss of his son and notes Reluzco had a previous record of drunk driving. Police arrested Reluzco three previous times for alcohol related offenses.
“He’s not somebody who cared about anybody else on the road,” Rich Leotta said after Reluzco’s bond hearing. “He didn’t care about any human life that was on the road. All he wanted to do was get his high or whatever he was doing.”
Proponents of drunk driving reform in Maryland have long fought for stricter rules to deter driving under the influence, but to no avail. The death of Leotta shocked politicians and activists into finally acting on the issue.
“This legislation, for 6 years has been introduced and has failed,” Montgomery County Chief of Police Thomas Manger told WUSA9. “It’s Noah’s sacrifice that made this happen. Officer Noah Leotta will be saving lives for the next 100 years.”
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