WASHINGTON — The man who caused a drunken-driving accident that killed a Montgomery County police officer and led to new penalties for drunk driving in Maryland was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday.
Luis Reluzco, 47, had pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in the death of Officer Noah Leotta, 24, who was struck and killed in December 2015. Leotta had pulled over another driver on Rockville Pike while working on drunk-driving enforcement.
Leotta’s death led lawmakers to pass a tougher drunk-driving law in Maryland, which went into effect Oct. 1. Under the law, a person who fails a breath test with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher would be required to use an ignition interlock device. That device prevents the driver from starting a car if they’ve been drinking too much.
Prosecutors say Reluzco struck Leotta after a night that included heavy drinking at a Hooters in Rockville. The restaurant closed earlier this year.
Reluzco’s lawyer, John Roth, said his client’s actions were grossly negligent and that he’s taken full responsibility and had no intent to kill anyone. Prosecutors said he would likely be eligible for parole in two and a half years.
While the guidelines call for a sentence of 2 to 7 years, prosecutor Peter Feeney told Circuit Court Judge Ann Harrington that Reluzco should be jailed for more than that, saying Reluzco was “completely obliterated” when he hit Leotta. He said Reluzco had also smoked marijuana and took Xanax before drinking at Hooters. “He was a man on a mission,” Feeney said.
Prosecutors also dispute Reluzco’s lawyer’s claim that he cooperated, saying he refused to take field sobriety tests. Feeney said a 10-year sentence would send a message that drunk driving is not acceptable in Montgomery County.
Harrington agreed and told Reluzco that this was not the time for leniency as she gave her decision. “You condemned to death one of the bright lights of the community,” she said.
During the sentencing hearing, Leotta’s mother, Marcia, told the court, “I lost my joy. I cry all the time. I feel like I want to die and be with him.”
She called Reluzco “a thoughtless, selfish drunk.”
Leotta’s father, Richard, echoed Marcia’s pain and told the judge that the pain is so bad, he just wants to die.
Reluzco’s last words to Leotta’s parents during the sentencing were, “I’m eternally sorry.”
WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.
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