The facts seem pretty clear: On Feb. 15, Michele Traverso, a 25-year-old with a suspended license, slammed into two cyclists on the Rickenbacker Causeway after he'd spent a long night drinking in Coconut Grove. Traverso then sped away, leaving one of the cyclists, Aaron Cohen, a father of two, dying on the roadside.
Given all that -- and the fact that security video at his apartment shows him wobbling out of his car -- you'd think Traverso would face DUI manslaughter charges. But you'd be wrong. CBS4 reports that Traverso has escaped the most serious possible charge because police couldn't get a blood-alcohol test until it was too late.
Traverso still faces charges of causing serious bodily harm, leaving the scene of an accident, and driving on a suspended license -- all of which could bring a maximum of 15 years in jail, CBS4 writes.
But a DUI manslaughter conviction could have brought double that.
The problem is that Traverso managed to evade police for a full 12 hours after the accident. By the time they hauled him in, it was too late for a blood test to determine how drunk he'd been the night before.
(Contrast Traverso's scenario with that of fellow accused Rickenbacker hit-and-runner Carlos Bertonatti who led police on a brief chase before they strapped him to a stretcher to forcibly extract blood to use as evidence. Bertonatti will face DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide charges, assuming his case ever starts -- it's been delayed nine times. Supposedly it'll get underway June 11.)
Police did manage to construct some damning circumstantial evidence that Traverso was drunk when he killed Cohen and seriously injured another cyclist, Enda Walsh.
Witnesses place him at Coconut Grove's Greenstreet Cafe until early in the morning and receipts show alcohol was purchased, CBS4 reports. His apartment's security footage also seems to show him drunk once he gets home after the accident.
But without a BAC test, prosecutors have reportedly decided not to proceed with the DUI manslaughter case. A drug test on Traverso -- who had previously been convicted on cocaine and marijuana charges -- also came back clean.
Riptide has requested a comment from State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle's office about the report; we'll update when we hear back.
Traverso's trial doesn't yet have a start date filed in the court dockets.
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