The Miami-Dade County Commission adopted a resolution today calling for stronger state penalties for drivers who flee the scene of a car crash. The resolution, approved unanimously, was offered by Commissioner Jose Diaz. It is the latest response to the 364-day jail sentence handed Michele Traverso for killing bicyclist Aaron Cohen with his car on the Rickenbacker Causeway early last year.
When Traverso struck Cohen and his riding buddy, he was on his way home to Key Biscayne after a night out with pals in Coconut Grove. The crash happened at about 5:30 a.m., shortly the bar-closing hour in the Grove. Traverso wasn’t checked for intoxication, though, because his identity was unknown to police until hours later — by which time his body would have processed any alcohol in his blood.
He did plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, and apologized tearfully to Cohen’s family at his sentencing in January. Circuit Judge William Thomas heeded the family’s request that Traverso be allowed to serve time in jail instead of a state prison in order that he be close to his longtime Miami physician. The doctor testified that Traverso has a rare hereditary ailment that can make him dangerously ill with little warning.
Ever since a Miami-Dade judge ordered a puny jail sentence for the hit-and-run driver who killed bicyclist Aaron Cohen on the Rickenbacker Causeway, a movement has been growing to more effectively punish drivers who flee the scene of a car crash.
The movement got a high-profile boost this week when Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose Diaz called for the Florida Legislature to set stiff mandatory prison sentences for hit-and-run. Just such a goal is the aim of an ad hoc committee convened by Dr. Michelina Witte, a triathlete who teaches in the University of Miami’s Sport Sciences Department. Witte’s group, including Cohen’s riding buddy Enda Walsh, set to work within days of Judge William Thomas’s handing down a 364-day jail term for Michele Traverso on January 17.
The Diaz resolution is on the County Commission’s preliminary agenda for Tuesday morning. We expect a commissioner or two at our Rocafort Memorial Ride this morning, so be sure and mention this when you see ’em. We’ll update this post if the item is postponed from Tuesday’s meeting. Meanwhile, you can follow the project on Twitter @FixLSA — as well as here.
As expected, Carlos Bertonatti pleaded guilty on Monday. The Miami Herald’s David Ovalle reports from the courthouse here.
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The young singer Carlos Bertonatti told a Miami-Dade trial judge today that he’s ready to plead guilty in the hit-and-run death of bicyclist Christoph Le Canne three years ago on the Rickenbacker Causeway. The actual plea would be entered Feb. 19, and Bertonatti could get a potential sentence as long as 35 years. The sentencing is to take place May 2. Circuit Court Judge Bronwyn Miller reminded Bertonatti that he’d be subject to deportation.
Continue reading Driver Guilty in Cyclist’s Hit-Run Death
A team of our volunteers installed nearly 50 light sets on bicycles at a Coconut Grove street corner early last evening. Word spread quickly after we flagged down a couple of riders and offered the lights to make their bikes safer and law-compliant. Soon we had more bikes than lights and some had to be turned away. Each rider got a short lesson on bicycle safety. The lights were purchased under a City of Miami grant. Special thanks to District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who made it possible, and to Andre Quirino of TriJungle.
The year in jail that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas sentenced Michele Traverso to is far too insignificant for killing Aaron Cohen last year.
We share the outrage of the cycling community and sympathize with the Cohen family for what certainly seems a continuation of this awful tragedy. Aaron Cohen’s death was, unfortunately, one of many on Florida’s roads, as our state was the top-ranked state for bicyclist and pedestrian deaths in 2012, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking.
Florida should be doing more to protect vulnerable people from this careless violence. The Legislature needs to pass better laws so that police and prosecutors can charge criminals appropriately for such death and injury. Judges should realize that society benefits when dangerous drivers have strong incentives to respect the wellbeing of others. The small risk of getting caught, and small penalties if convicted are out of line with the excess of deaths by motor vehicle and the horrible consequences for victims’ families and all of Florida.
Normal responsible drivers know to keep a safe distance away from bicycles, drive at reasonable speeds, obey signals and signs, and give up the steering wheel when necessary. Irresponsible drivers make it necessary to adopt more specific laws and strong penalties in order to keep us all safe on shared roads.
At the local level, Aaron Cohen’s memory can best be served if we, as a community, join together to improve the safety of our roadways in his honor. By supporting efforts to improve conditions for cyclists, pedestrians, and all users of our roadways with a renewed sense of urgency, we help to diminish the utter senselessness of his death. One important step would be for Miami’s leaders to implement the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, which was created in 2009 but is still far from being a reality. Continue reading Let’s Channel the Anger Over Traverso
Michele Traverso will serve time in a county jail, not a state prison, for the hit-and-run death of bicyclist Aaron Cohen last Feb. 15. Judge William Thomas sentenced him to 364 days, followed by two years of probation.
The prosecutor, Jane Anderson, asked for six years in prison and five years’ probation. The defendant, a 26-year-old aspiring masseur, had already pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal accident and to driving with a suspended license. Today he addressed the Cohen family, acknowledged that “what I have done is unspeakable,” and promised to dedicate his life to helping others. “I beg for the opportunity to do that,” he told the crowded courtroom as he stood in Miami-Dade Jail orange.
Traverso said he was not drunk, as many have assumed, but asleep at the wheel when he plowed into Cohen and riding buddy Enda Walsh on the Rickenbacker Causeway’s Powell Bridge. Continue reading Hit-run Driver Gets A Year, Almost