Drag racer receives 13 years in prison

Bicyclist killed after crash in 2011

TAMPA, Fla. - A man received 13 years in prison Friday for killing a bicyclist on Fletcher Avenue while drag racing.

Lenoy Rivera was convicted last month of second-degree vehicular homicide in the Feb. 13, 2011, death of Robert Niedbalec. 

"I just want to say I'm very, very, extremely sorry," Rivera said at his sentencing. "I never intended to hurt anyone."

Niedbalec was out for a leisurely bicycle ride when investigators say Rivera lost control while drag racing at more than 90 mph.

The 52-year-old husband and father, originally from Poland, died at the scene near the University of South Florida. He was a veterinarian and judo instructor.

"I never wanted to do anything to hurt this family," Rivera said.

Niedbalec's family continues to hurt from the loss.

"What I won't ever have is him to walk me down the aisle, to give me away to my future husband," said Katie, his daughter.

Rivera's family also spoke before the judge handed down the 13-year-sentence.

His mother said Rivera, who was at 18 when the crash happened, was trying to turn his life around.

"He's kind, loving, helps anyone that needs help," Jasmine Sierra said.

Authorities said Rivera first blamed the crash on his girlfriend, who was the passenger. He was driving without a valid license and had been caught racing three times before.

Friday, he told Niedbalec's wife he will never be able to forgive himself for taking a life.

"I wish that I could trade spots with your husband every day," Rivera said.

Along with the 13-year sentence, the judge revoked Rivera's drivers license for life. The man he's accused of drag racing against will also face a trial.

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