Endymion crash driver sentenced to five years in jail

Neilson Rizzuto, who injured 32 people when he drove his truck into a crowd of spectators during last year’s Krewe of Endymion parade, was sentenced to 5 years in prison Friday (Jan. 12).

The sentence handed down by Criminal District Court Judge Ben Willard suspends one year of the prison term and also gives Rizzuto credit for time served. He has been in jail for about 10 months, since Feb. 26, 2017. He’s also required to serve one year active probation upon his release.

Rizzuto had previously pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts of first-degree negligent vehicular injury, each of which carried up to five years, and 14 counts of misdemeanor negligent vehicular injury, each of which carried up to six months.

Rizzuto had a blood alcohol content of .232, nearly three times the legal limit, on the night of the crash, which sent 23 people to the hospital.

Before Willard announced his sentence, Rizzuto, addressed the handful of victims in attendance at Friday’s hearing. Dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, his wrists and ankles shackled, Rizzuto read off the names of all the people he injured from a yellow legal pad. He then said he was “extremely sorry. It was never my intention to cause harm to anyone. If I could change the events of that day I would. I am truly sorry.”

When Rizzuto pleaded guilty in October, his attorney, Nanak Rai, told Judge Willard that his client accepted full responsibility.

“We looked at all the facts and circumstances, and (evidence of guilt) is overwhelming,” Rai said. “Sometimes, you have to be a realist and not an optimist. He’s very sorry for what happened to the victims.”

Correction: Rizzuto received 1 year active probation, not 3 as originally reported by the DA’s office.

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