10 years for drunk driver who killed Montgomery County police officer

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ROCKVILLE, MD — A drunk driver who hit and killed a Montgomery County Police officer last December was sentenced to the maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for vehicular manslaughter.

Luis Gustavo Reluzco had pleaded guilty to the crash that happened on December 3, 2015. He struck Officer Noah Leotta, who was out conducting drunk driving enforcement. Leotta died from his injuries on Dec. 10, 2015.

Judge Ann Harrington issued the sentence to Luis Gustavo Reluzco after a sentencing hearing that last several hours and featured impact statements from members of Leotta’s family.

Afterwards, Leotta’s father, Rich Leotta, said several members of Reluzco’s family spoke with him.

“There’s no winners. There’s only losers in this. I lost my son, they lost their son to jail. They’re hurting, we’re hurting, in different ways, but we’re all hurting,” said Leotta. He added he was hoping for, but was expecting Reluzco to get the maximum penalty. “We saw a judge who recognized that it’s a serious problem, drunk driving.”

When he addressed the courtroom, Reluzco stood and faced the Leotta family and told them that he is eternally sorry for what’s he had done and is ready to accept his punishment. He added that he wished he had hit a pole that night and killed himself instead and promised that when he is released, he will spend the rest of his life advocating against drunk driving.

“I really, really, really, in my heart hope he does mean what he said today. Because that would make me feel that I’ve done some difference. At least, I see it in a person there, but, the but is, for 30 years he hasn’t changed,” said Leotta afterwards.

Reluzco had three prior documented cases of driving under the influence in the last three decades, and the judge noted that in her sentencing. Harrington said while Reluzco’s voice will be a powerful one when it comes to speaking out against drunk driving, he must face punishment, noting he never changed his behavior after his previous convictions and it shouldn’t take killing someone to take drunk driving seriously.

“The judge, the judges, who Noah had told me were too lenient, guess what? Today, they proved me wrong, they proved Noah wrong, and Noah would be happy about that,” said Leotta.

However, Leotta added that he thinks 10 years is not a severe enough penalty for vehicular manslaughter and will be lobbying Maryland lawmakers in 2017 to increase the maximum penalty.

Because vehicular manslaughter is considered a non-violent offense, Reluzco will be eligible to apply for parole after serving a quarter of his sentence. Since he has been in prison since February, Reluzco will meet that eligibility in the summer of 2018.