Jose "Pepe" Diaz Busted for DUI After Driving His Harley 74 MPH Through Key West

Update 5/4/2016: A Key West jury has found Diaz not guilty of drunken driving in the case. Diaz argued he failed the sobriety test because he was overweight and had burned his leg on an exhaust pipe. 

The black Harley blazed past two officers parked on the south tip of Key West just after 7 p.m. Saturday, lighting up a radar gun at 74 mph as its engine gunned noisily through the 30 mph speed zone. When the officers pulled the bike over, the rider nearly fell over. A cop had to rush to the side of the road to help hold the heavy motorcycle upright.

That's when the rider — with a "good odor of alcoholic beverage" on his breath — asked to speak with the sergeant on duty. "I'm Commissioner Diaz," he explained to the cops. 

Commissioner or not, Jose "Pepe" Diaz was soon led away from the scene in handcuffs, charged with DUI, driving without a license, and speeding after failing roadside tests and then refusing to take a breathalyzer.

This morning, the four-term county commissioner says he won't step down over the arrest. "I look forward to resolving this matter," Diaz says in a statement. "In the meantime, I will continue to serve my community and the residents of District 12.”

Diaz, a 55-year-old Cuban-born Marine veteran, served as Sweetwater's mayor before getting elected to the county commission in 2002. He's been re-elected three times since — while also snagging some lucrative side jobs for firms with business interests in Miami International Airport

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz faces DUI charges in his Key West arrest.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz faces DUI charges in his Key West arrest.
photos by Stig Nygaard via Flickr Creative Commons and via Monroe County Sheriff's Office

A police report obtained by New Times paints a vivid picture of the incident that led to his arrest Saturday in Key West. 

Key West PD Officers Gary Celcer and Randall Hartle were on speed patrol on Roosevelt Boulevard where the main road curves north along the east side of the island. That's when they clocked Diaz's bike doing more than double the speed limit.

When they pulled the commissioner over, he was barely able to keep his bike upright. "As the driver and Officer Celcer uprighted the motorcycle, the driver did not control the bike and it started falling to the right side," Hartle writes in his report. "I asked the driver if he was OK, and he said yes and that he was sorry."

The cops noted that his speech was "slurred, his eyes... bloodshot, red and glassy, and that there was a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the driver's breath and person."

When they asked Diaz for his license, he admitted he didn't have it on him but told the two cops he was a Miami-Dade County commissioner. Then he asked for a sergeant to come to the scene. 

Instead, a DUI specialist arrived and put Diaz through a series of road tests, which he failed.

"Diaz told me he had consumed a rum and Coke and one glass of champagne approximately three hours prior to the traffic stop," Officer Alexander Rodriguez Jr. writes. "Diaz also told me he was a commissioner for Miami-Dade County."

Rodriguez soon cuffed the commissioner and took him to jail, where he refused to take a breathalyzer test. He spent the night there and left at 11:45 a.m. Sunday after posting $1,000 bond.

Diaz declined to comment on the case beyond promising to continue serving as commissioner, saying that "under advice of my legal counsel, I cannot discuss details at this time."


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