Geismer drunk driver convicted of vehicular homicide in 2016 CBD crash

Chad Vidrine

NEW ORLEANS– District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office  secured the conviction of a Geismar drunk driver who killed a man when he ran a red light and plowed into a pickup truck near New Orleans’ Central Business District on the night of Feb. 4, 2016.

A six-person New Orleans jury deliberated 90 minutes before finding Chad Vidrine guilty as charged of vehicular homicide, in connection with the death of 35-year-old Joseph Sunseri. Vidrine, 39, faces a prison term ranging from 5 to 30 years when Criminal District Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier imposes his sentence on Nov. 30.

At least three years of the sentence must be served without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

Authorities determined that Vidrine had a blood-alcohol content of .121 — more than 50 percent above the legal limit of .08 — when he ran the light in his Chevrolet pickup truck and struck a Ford pickup truck shortly after 10 p.m. at the intersection of Calliope and Annunciation streets.

The impact of the high-speed crash caused the other truck to spin and overturn, ejecting Sunseri — who was in the Ford’s passenger seat — through the sunroof.

Sunseri sustained massive head and body injuries and was pronounced dead upon arrival at University Medical Center’s trauma unit. The driver of the Ford also was hurt, but survived his injuries.

New Orleans police responding to the crash reported Vidrine displayed bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and smelled of alcohol while failing field sobriety tests.

At trial, Vidrine contested the testing measures that determined his intoxication level and argued that a streetlight temporarily removed to allow the passage of Mardi Gras floats contributed to the crash.

“This is another tragic case illustrating the dangers of getting behind the wheel and driving while impaired,” Cannizzaro said.

“Through this selfish act, an innocent family has been made to grieve the loss of a loved one, and a defendant will spend years in prison that could have been avoided. Given the abundance of taxis and ride-sharing options available to New Orleans’ citizens and visitors, there really is no excuse for this particular crime to be committed.”

Assistant District Attorneys Angad Ghai and Missy Bucher prosecuted the case.

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