Tampa man sentenced in fatal hit-and-run accident - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa man sentenced in fatal hit-and-run accident

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Lenoy Rivera (Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office) Lenoy Rivera (Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office)
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

A Tampa man was sentenced to 13 years in prison Friday for a hit-and-run accident that killed a respected veterinarian.

Lenoy Rivera was just 18-years old in February 2011 when prosecutors say he was traveling at a high rate of speed, lost control of his car, and hit 52-year-old Robert Niedbalec.

Rivera initially tried to convince authorities his girlfriend was driving the car, but prosecutors say evidence showed Rivera was the driver.

Prosecutors say he never received or even applied for a driver’s license in the state of Florida. He was also cited on three previous occasions for driving without a license.

Rivera stood in court on Friday, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and tearfully apologized for his actions.

"I just want to say I am extremely sorry. I never intended to hurt anyone. I wish I could take it back," he said.

Friends, family and coworkers of Dr. Niedbalec told Judge Lamar Battles how the loss has affected their lives and the community.

Friend Lou Buttitta told the judge he knew Dr. Niedbalec before he became a Veterinarian.

"He was a good man and this was not an accident. This was a young man who was driving on a suspend license, and who knew he was driving on a suspended license," said Buttitta.

Evidence in the trial also showed that Rivera was driving more than 90 miles per hour when he hit Dr. Niedbalec.

The victim's wife says the crash was violent and her husband died instantly.

Kathryn Niedbalec says she understands the judge is limited by sentencing guidelines, but she feels the 13 year sentence was not enough for the crime.

"When you think that we actually give out sentences for such as 20 years for animal neglect. I just don't understand the good sense, the common sense in that," said Kathryn Niedbalec.

As he handed down the sentence, Judge Battles told Rivera that to characterize this as anything but senseless would be a mistake.

"Let's be clear, this was no mistake. This was no and I repeat, this was no accident, " said Battles.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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