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Driver gets 10 years in fatal DWI crash

Brian Leonard

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Prosecutors say Brian Leonard was driving 66 mph in his Ford F-150 pickup when he ran a red light on southbound Louisiana and slammed into a sedan, killing 69-year-old Robert Neely.

Leonard, 31, whose blood alcohol level was 0.21% – more than twice the presumed level of intoxication – was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison, the maximum allowed under his plea agreement. He had been convicted of aggravated DWI eight years before and pleaded guilty in June to vehicular homicide.

“He’s already been down the DUI road before, and he obviously is still drinking and driving,” prosecutor Sarah Ebbers said Wednesday, asking state District Judge Daniel Ramczyk to impose the full 10 years.

Neely, his wife and 6-year-old daughter had moved to Gallup just months before the wreck. Their plans to spend the weekend in Albuquerque were cut short when Leonard – also from the Gallup area, coincidentally – plowed into their car before they’d even checked into their hotel.

Jonathan Ibarra, Leonard’s attorney, said his client has been sober since the July 2016 crash, and he’s been working and going to therapy regularly. He described Leonard’s traumatic childhood: His mother committed suicide when he was 6, and as a teenager he was stabbed by someone who’d broken into his home looking for his brother.

Ibarra said this case changed Leonard’s life, and he asked for a five-year sentence.

“Beyond that, we’re really into punishment for punishment’s sake,” Ibarra said.

In his own statement to the court, Leonard apologized to the Neelys, who have moved to Tennessee since the wreck and could not attend the hearing.

As he apologized for causing heartache, Ramczyk interrupted.

“We’re not talking about heartache,” the judge said. “Were talking about a human being who no longer exists.”

Leonard said he understands that and takes full responsibility.

“The choice I made, it ruined Mr. Neely’s life … it ruined his family’s life and mine as well,” he said.


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