AP NEWS

90-year sentence for drunk driver in 2 bicyclists’ deaths

October 29, 2019
FILE - In this file photo, New Orleans Police examine damaged cars and bicycles on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans after a car struck multiple people, killing several and injuring others following the Endymion Mardi Gras parade on Saturday, March 2, 2019. A man who drunkenly drove into a group of bicycle riders after the parade pleaded guilty Monday, Oct. 28 to two counts of vehicular homicide, averting a scheduled trial and opening himself for a possible 80-year prison sentence. (Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP, File)
FILE - In this file photo, New Orleans Police examine damaged cars and bicycles on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans after a car struck multiple people, killing several and injuring others following the Endymion Mardi Gras parade on Saturday, March 2, 2019. A man who drunkenly drove into a group of bicycle riders after the parade pleaded guilty Monday, Oct. 28 to two counts of vehicular homicide, averting a scheduled trial and opening himself for a possible 80-year prison sentence. (Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP, File)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The drunk driver who killed two bicycle riders and injured seven following a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade in March was sentenced Tuesday to 90 years in prison.

State Judge Laurie White gave Tashonty Toney, 32, the maximum sentence, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said.

That included two consecutive 30-year sentences for the deaths of Sharree Walls, 27, and David Hynes, 31.

Walls was an Illinois native and the director of a nonprofit in New Orleans. She was a popular member of a Mardi Gras marching club.

Hynes was a Seattle resident who was visiting the city where he had attended Tulane University.

The sentencing hearing came a day after Toney pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide and heard emotional testimony from the relatives of those killed and from some of the injured.

New Orleans news organizations at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing reported that Toney apologized, but a prosecutor questioned his sincerity. A recorded jailhouse phone call revealed Toney laughing after victim impact statements were given in court Monday. And it captured Toney’s sister using a racial epithet while talking about the parents of Walls, who was African American. Walls’ mother had called for a maximum sentence Monday.

Toney also is black.

In remarks following the hearing, Cannizzaro said White made a “difficult but correct” sentencing decision.

She gave Toney the maximum 30-year sentence for each of the vehicular homicide counts, which under state law must be served consecutively. Sentences on 14 related counts, including hit-and-run and charges in the injuring of seven bicyclists, raised the sentence by 30 more years.

Authorities said Toney had a blood-alcohol level of .20% — more than twice the legal threshold of .08% in Louisiana — when he drove his Chevrolet Camaro into the bicycle lane on busy Esplanade Avenue shortly after the annual Krewe of Endymion parade on March 2. Prosecutors said he was driving 80 mph (129 kph) and hit several parked cars as well as the nine bicyclists.

“For the ultimate loss of Ms. Walls and Mr. Hynes, the law was clear that a significant penalty must be incurred,” Cannizzaro told reporters after the hearing.