NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana appeals court has thrown out the 90-year prison sentence for a drunken driver who struck nine bicycle riders near a Mardi Gras parade route in March 2019, killing two of them.
The state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the judge who sentenced Tashonty Toney did not adequately explain the reasons behind the imposition of the maximum sentences after Toney’s guilty plea. Accordingly, Toney’s argument that Toney’s sentence was too harsh was not properly reviewed by appellate judges.
The ruling, dated Wednesday sent the case back the criminal Court New Orleans for the “meaningful sentencing Hearing .”
“, as the judge requested.
Blood testing showed Toney was driving at a higher blood-alcohol concentration than. 21 percent as he sped down New Orleans’ prominent Esplanade Avenue, which was bustling with auto, bicycle and pedestrian traffic after the popular parade of the Krewe of Endymion.
Driving at speeds exceeding 80mph (nearly 130 km/h), Toney drove at times in the bicycle lane, sending riders and bicycles flying, according to court records. According to authorities he swerved in front of other vehicles and collided with another vehicle, before coming to rest at the median. He fled but was followed by witnesses and taken into custody until police arrived.
The two killed were Sharree Walls, 27, of New Orleans and David Hynes, 31, a Seattle man and Tulane Law School graduate who was visiting during Mardi Gras.
The two men died near the place where the Krewe Of Endymion parade, an annual spectacle featuring large, brightly lit floats with marching bands, had just finished. Witnesses claimed that the scene had been transformed into a scene of chaos and carnage by passers-by trying to provide first aid for the dying and injured.
Toney pleaded guilty in October 2019 to 16 criminal counts, including two counts of vehicular homicide, each of which carried a maximum 30-year sentence. His plea deal did not contain a sentencing agreement.
After a hearing featuring emotional testimony from relatives of those killed, and from some of the injured, Judge Laurie White’s sentence included maximum 30-year sentences on each of the negligent homicide counts, and six maximum 5-year sentences for vehicular negligent injuring, according to the appeal court opinion. White did not order that all sentences for other charges be served simultaneously. However, the sentence for Toney was longer than 90 consecutive year and 60 for those who are not eligible for parole.
” Certainly, the defendant’s actions caused pain and suffering that is deserving of a severe penalty of imprisonment,” the appeals court ruling stated. “This Court acknowledges that deterrence and retribution are important considerations when imposing a sentence in a case like this .”
But the opinion also noted that the 90-year-plus sentence was, in effect, a life sentence for Toney, 34. It said the trial court must hold a hearing where Toney‘s lawyers can present evidence. If it imposes maximum sentences for each count, the court must explain and require that all sentences are served in consecutive order.
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