Man sentenced to up to 7 years in prison in 2016 death of Kansas City cyclist

Anthony Saluto was hit near Independence and Lydia Avenues after a shift at the Opera House Coffee & Food Emporium. (Submitted)

A Jackson County judge has sentenced the man charged in the killing of a Kansas City bicyclist to serve up to seven years in prison.

Joseph Lasala, 32, was sentenced Thursday after he pleaded guilty to felony first-degree involuntary manslaughter for being under the influence of a controlled substance when he fatally struck bicyclist Anthony Saluto, 32, with his vehicle in 2016.

Lasala was sentenced pursuant to Missouri statute 559.115 that allows for release if he successfully completes 120 days in prison. He will then be on probation for five years. If he fails probation, he faces completion of the seven-year sentence. He was taken into custody at the end of Thursday morning's hearing.

Lasala's attorney told the judge that his client has continually expressed sorrow for the victim's family.

Members of the Saluto family and his friends, as well as a representative of BikeWalkKC, detailed the loving nature of Saluto and their great loss. Some asked the judge to consider imposing a harsher sentence.

Saluto’s family brought his picture to court and told the judge that they think Joseph Lasala’s sentence is a vacation, not a punishment.

The judge noted that no matter the sentence, it will not change what happened on April 3, 2016. He implored the defendant to take to heart what he had heard from the victim's family.

Saluto was hit near Independence and Lydia Avenues after a shift at the Opera House Coffee & Food Emporium in River Market.

Prosecutors say Lasala's silver Lexus veered across Independence Avenue, struck Saluto, drove off, and then hit a utility pole a few blocks away.

According to court records, a blood test found Lasala had cocaine, opiates and other narcotics in his system at the time of the crash. Investigators say Lasala was traveling 47 to 56 miles per hour in a 35-speed limit zone.

Many people in the cycling community say that sentence is inadequate. Now, they're pushing for change so these types of crashes don't happen again.

The sentence is a hard pill to swallow for the family.

“It just blows my mind that this guy gets 120 days," said Lorrie Brown, Saluto's mother. "120 days. Unbelievable.”

“What does that do?" she said. "I mean, I’m sorry. That’s… When you go out and kill someone, you take their life away. That’s for good. That’s for real. I will never see my son Anthony again."

"Things have got to change, because this is totally wrong," she said.

Lasala's family was also in court on Thursday, supporting him as he left in handcuffs.

“People don’t understand," said Cynthia Lasala, his mother. "The person on the other side of this, also loses. I have lost my son. He’s not the same person. He has PTSD. Bicyclers scare him to death.”

Both families had a short exchange of words.

Saluto’s family says they plan to honor him by fighting for cyclists rights on the road and working with BikeWalkKC to get a protected bike lane on Independence Avenue near where Saluto was hit.

“We owe it to him," said Michael Kelley with BikeWalkKC. "We owe it to his family. We owe it to the cyclists and pedestrians who walk and ride on our streets every day to make the city safer for them.”

Copyright 2018 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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