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March 7, 2021

Drunk driver gets 90-year prison sentence for killing two bicyclists

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 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.

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