The man who struck and killed a Mongtomery County police officer -- while driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit and with evidence of marijuana and Xanax in his system -- has agreed to plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter.
Luis Gustavo Reluzco, 48, of Olney, reached the agreement Thursday, the Washington Post reported. He faces up to 10 years in prison, and court records show that prosecutors have not cut a deal to lessen that prison time, the Post reported.
Noah Leotta, 24, was critically injured the evening of Dec. 3, 2015, after he had volunteered to work on a special holiday drunk-driving patrol. He had stopped a suspected drunken driver at Rockville Pike and Edmonston Drive in Rockville, Maryland, and was outside his cruiser when Reluzco smashed into the police car and then struck him, police said.
Leotta was rushed to a hospital but died on Dec. 10.
Reluzco had been indicted on charges of manslaughter by automobile and failing to move over for an emergency vehicle. The "move over" charge was dropped in the plea agreement, the court documents quoted by the Post indicated.
He has been jailed since he was arrested. “He’s trying to do the right thing,” his attorney, John Roth, told the Post. “He’s never run away from accepting responsibility for his actions.”
The tragedy turned Leotta's family into activists, who campaigned for stronger punishment of drunk drivers in Maryland. Their campaign succeeded last week, when "Noah's Law" passed the Maryland Senate and House.
The law requires convicted drunken drivers to use ignition interlock devices on their cars. Drivers would have to pass a Breathalyzer test before their car could start.
Reluzco had at least three previous alcohol-related arrests, police said in February.
“He’s not somebody who cared about anybody else on the road,” Rich Leotta, Officer Noah Leotta's father, said in furious remarks he delivered after Reluzco's bond hearing. "All he cared about was having drinks and getting drunk. He didn’t care about any human life that was on the road. All he wanted to do was get his high or whatever he was doing. And we know that he has done this before in the past.”
“Zero point eight is the limit in Maryland,” Rich Leotta said, visibly angry. “It’s not 0.15; it’s not 0.09. That’s when the interlock device needs to be implemented. One sip over or I don’t care if it’s one drop over. You’re over the limit, you’re drunk. You don’t drive drunk. That puts everybody at risk. My son is dead because of that. That’s the liquor lobby. They don’t care about the people. They just care about selling their damn alcohol.”
Reluzco had admitted drinking beer and bourbon for about three hours Dec. 3, police said.
He now faces a hearing on the plea agreement in May.
"My client is destroyed by what occurred on the night of Dec. 3,” said Reluzco’s attorney, John Roth. “He makes absolutely no excuse for his actions on that night."