ROCKVILLE, Md. - The driver charged with striking and killing a Montgomery County police officer last December has pleaded guilty in court on Wednesday.
Officer Noah Leotta was working as part of a drunk driving task force operation on Dec. 3 when he was fatally hit by 47-year-old Luis Reluzco. Leotta would die from his injuries a week later.
Reluzco entered a guilty plea to one count of vehicular manslaughter in court in Rockville.
The judge asked Reluzco a series of questions including whether he was pleading guilty because he is guilty and Reluzco responded yes.
Reluzco's sentencing was deferred until August. The statutory maximum penalty for manslaughter by motor vehicle is 10 years and a $5,000 fine. But his defense attorney has asked for a pre-sentencing investigation, which could potentially reduce the penalty.
In court, the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office read some of the evidence against Reluzco, including surveillance cameras and credit card receipts showing Reluzco was at Hooters restaurants for four hours prior to the fatal crash and had bought four beers and five shots of whiskey.
Prosecutors said Reluzco failed field sobriety tests and had a blood alcohol level of .22. He also had Xanax in his system and reportedly told officers at the scene that he smokes weed twice a day.
Dozens of Montgomery County police officers, Officer Leotta's family and the victim's family all filled the courtroom for the plea hearing.
"From our standpoint, not having to go to trial alleviates some of that pain and suffering of going through all the details that we had in a synopsized version of today - that's what it does," said Rich Leotta, the father of the late officer. "But the pain and suffering of losing our son doesn't change no matter what happens today or any other day.
In April, Maryland passed "Noah's Law," which will require ignition interlock devices for anyone convicted of drunk driving in the state. Governor Larry Hogan is expected to sign the bill into law on Thursday. According to his attorney, Reluzco supports Noah's Law.