A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Dec. 9) sentenced Todd Williams to a total of 21 years in prison for killing three Good Samaritans and injuring two others while driving under the influence of alcohol.
Williams, 40, of New Orleans, pleaded guily as charged guilty to three felony counts of vehicular homicide for the deaths of the Rev. Claude Luther Williams, Jr., 40, of Gretna; his friend Williams J. Leinart, 49, of Gretna; and Joseph Chopin, 66, of Marrero.
About 10:30 p.m., on June 16, a motorist was traveling east on the elevated Westbank Expressway near MacArthur Boulevard when one of the tires of her 2017 Hyundai Accent blew out. That caused her car to strike the concrete rail and come to a rest facing oncoming traffic in the left and center lanes, according to Louisiana State Police.
The Rev. Williams and his passenger Leinart stopped to assist the motorist, as did Chopin, who was driving separately. The three men and passengers from the Hyundai stood outside their vehicles.
Todd Williams, driving a 2015 Chevrolet Impala in the left lane, struck the Hyundai, which in turn struck another vehicle and pedestrians. Claude Williams, who was on the phone with a 911 operator when the crash occurred, Leinart and Chopin were thrown over the side and fell 30 feet to their deaths. Other motorists were injured.
Williams blood-alcohol content was .11 percent, above the .08-percent legal limit to drive.
On Monday, after hearing a letter of forgiveness written by the Rev. Williams’ wife and read aloud by a prosecutor, and hearing Todd Williams express sorrow and remorse, Judge Nancy Miller of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced the defendant to seven years in prison for each count of vehicular homicide. Judge Miller ran the sentences consecutively, for a total of 21 years.
Todd Williams also pleaded guilty as charged to two misdemeanor counts of vehicular negligent inuring, for which he received two six-month sentences. Judge Miller ran those sentences concurrent to the 21-year sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Vanderhooft prosecuted the case.