When police arrested 25-year-old Michele Traverso yesterday on charges that he fatally struck a cyclist on the Rickenbacker Causeway before speeding away, Miami cyclists felt a tragic sense of déjà vu. Just over two years ago, police say another young driver named Carlos Bertonatti ran after fatally hitting another cyclist on almost the exact same stretch of the bridge.
As the family of the biker killed early on Wednesday -- a 36-year-old dad named Aaron Cohen -- deals with the tragedy, relatives of Christophe LeCanne, who died in January 2010, are still waiting for his accused killer to face trial. Bertonatti has been free on house arrest since December 2010.
Frustrating as the delayed justice might be for cycling advocates, prosecutors say it's not unusual for a case like Bertonatti's. The aspiring musician from a wealthy Argentine family is preparing to vigorously fight his felony DUI manslaughter charges, so prosecutors have to prepare carefully.
"When a case involves a violent death, the defense has the right to request so many things that it can take a really, really long time," Terry Chavez, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office, tells Riptide. "You don't want to rush a case to trial and face an appeal."
Chavez says Bertonatti has shown no signs that he'll work with the state on a plea deal, despite the seemingly strong evidence against him.
Bertonatti led police on a brief chase through Key Biscayne with LeCanne's bike wedged under his bumper, and then blew a .122 -- well over the legal limit of .08 -- after his arrest, according to the cops.
"We're expecting to take these charges to trial," Chavez says. Bertonatti's attorney, Leonard Sands, didn't return a message from Riptide.
The parallels between Bertonatti's case and the new charges against Traverso are sure to bring new demands that the county make biking safer on the Rickenbacker.
After LeCanne's death in 2010, cycling advocates flooded a County Commission meeting to demand a dedicated bike path across the bridge, which is one of the most popular cycling routes in Miami-Dade.
Bart Sherwood spoke at that meeting, showing photos of injuries he sustained when a car hit him on the Rickenbacker. "Nothing's going to change until you decide to start enforcing traffic laws and taking down some speeders out there," Sherwood told the commission at the time.
It's not clear whether police will charge Traverso with driving under the influence -- especially since he didn't turn himself in until more than a full day after the 6 a.m. Wednesday crash. But Traverso was driving under a suspended license when police say he barreled into Cohen and another rider, Enda Welsh.
Welsh escaped with relatively minor injuries but Cohen -- who has two kids, 3-year-old Lilly and 1-year-old Aiden -- died from head wounds.
The South Florida Bike Coalition has organized a memorial ride in honor of Cohen for Saturday, starting at Biscayne and Flagler Street at 8:45 and headed across the Rickenbacker to Key Biscayne.
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- Carlos Bertonatti Was a Terrible Driver Long Before He Was Charged With Killing a Biker
- Musician Carlos Bertonatti Charged In Fatal DUI Key Biscayne Crash; Bikers Outraged