Lenoy Rivera said it was an accident, but Circuit Court Judge Emmett Lamar Battles and Robert Niedbalec's family and friends didn't see it that way.
In fact, Louis Buttitta, who had known the veterinarian for 25 years, says his friend was murdered by Rivera when the Tampa man ran over him in the bike lane on Fletcher Avenue three years ago when he was drag racing another car.
"This was not an accident," Buttitta said during Friday's sentencing hearing. "This is a man on a suspended license cutting across several lanes of traffic and he murdered this man."
Judge Battles sentenced him to 13 years in prison. Rivera wept when he addressed the family.
"I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive myself. I'm willing to talk whenever you guys want to. If you want to come to visit me, I know you probably don't, I'm willing to answer any questions you guys want," Rivera said.
Robert Niedbalec's wife said she was not moved by anything she heard in court.
"I just know that three weeks ago I received my first letter that apologized," she said after the sentencing. "Throughout the letter, of course, he said sorry about your husband and then the victim started talking about himself. It's another symptom of our narcissistic society. It's all about us, and I know he's young and everything centers around the ‘what about me generation,' but it's distasteful," she concluded.
The man authorities say Rivera was drag racing, Armando Perez, still awaits trial on a charge of leaving the scene of a deadly accident.
Speeding involved in fatal crash, deputies say
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