Dumb and Dumber Luck

After squandering much of his lottery jackpot, Bernardo Paz is acquitted of raping his pregnant teenage sister-in-law

"I don't know where it is, this case," Cohen admits, referring to the prospects of a settlement in the civil dispute. "This is a family. There are issues concerning the impact on the family to be litigating essentially amongst family members."

Yet for a while at least, it seemed Carbajal might make Paz pay. Paz claims his first civil attorney, Charles Salom, failed to meet a March 1998 deadline to respond to a motion. That prompted the judge to declare Paz liable for damages. In retaliation for the alleged mistake, Paz fired the attorney. "He fired me because he assumed I was trying to seduce his wife," Salom says. "He's wacko."

For the appeal Paz hired two lawyers, George Garcia and former Miami City Commissioner Humberto Hernandez. In January 1996, Garcia waved a loaded Glock 9-mm semiautomatic pistol at an irate client. (He later pleaded guilty to assault charges and was sentenced to seven years of probation.) Hernandez, as most of Miami knows, faced his own problems. "Both [lawyers] ... were soon indicted on criminal charges not related to this action and neither ... could pursue his defense," wrote Percy Martinez in a brief filed in support of Paz's appeal.

Eventually the appeal was successful and the default judgment against Paz was overturned. Yet Paz agreed to pay, Cohen reports. "An on-the-record settlement had been reached ... [The sister-in-law] would have gotten a substantial amount of money each year." Then, inexplicably, things changed. "The mom didn't want to pursue it further," Cohen adds.

Carbajal's last known address is Emma Castro's white aluminum trailer, located in the University Lakes trailer park in Southwest Dade. Castro says her son has lived with Carbajal for three years. She refers to the young woman as her daughter-in-law even though the couple is unmarried. Castro says the two teenagers live in Little Havana at an address she does not know.

Several of the lawyers Paz has been associated with assert that he is a good man. "He's not a bad person," says Salom, the lawyer Paz fired. "I know that sounds ridiculous considering his actions, but it's true."

Staff writer Ted B. Kissell assisted in the reporting of this story.

Published:Owing to an editing error in "Dumb and Dumber Luck" (February 4), about lottery winner Bernardo Paz, attorney George Garcia's plea to charges of aggravated assault and witness tampering was stated incorrectly. Garcia pleaded no contest. New Times regrest the error.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Miami Concert Tickets