“He showed contempt for the entire legal process. Mr. Bertonatti thinks he is above the law. He will do whatever it takes to protect himself.” That’s what the Assistant State Attorney told the Court. He directed his comments to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Bronwyn Miller.
But Carlos Bertonatti’s friends and family members only had accolades for the up and coming pop singer, in the Court hearing that would seal his fate. He was characterized by several friends “a compassionate person who deserved mercy because he was truly sorry for a DUI accident that took the life of a bicycle rider on the Rickenbacker Causeway,” according to cbslocal.com.
Bertonatti, a handsome aspiring young singer seemed to have everything going for him. His music can be described as a soft, easy-listing, jazzy genre and his songs can still be heard on his MySpace Page.
It appears that Carlos Bertonatti partied all night, his fateful last stop at Club Space located at NE 11th Street in downtown Miami. When he finally left at 8:00 in the morning back in January, 2010, it seems he had “one for the road” buying a Red Bull with Vodka before finally leaving the popular dance club and beginning his drive home in his 2007 Volkswagen Jetta.
According to their own proud assertion; in reference to apparently always being able to get a cocktail, which is in plain view on the “About Us” page of their Website, they write “Club Space offers a “no-nonsense approach towards the customers, as well as the then-unheard of 24-hour operating permit…”
While on his way to his home in Key Biscayne, the Jetta struck and killed Christophe LeCanne on Miami’s Rickenbacker Causeway. LeCanne was in the bike lane, riding across the thoroughfare when Bertonatti’s car collided with the cyclist where he died at the scene. Bertonatti didn’t stop, and continued driving for nearly three miles before police stopped him and found LeCanne’s mangled bike lodged under his car. When accused of the tragedy, Bertonatti purportedly contended that the cops who stopped and pulled him over were joking. He then had to be forcibly restrained so a blood alcohol test could be performed, which determined that jis blood alcohol level was well in excess of the State’s legal limit.
LeCanne died of his injuries on the part of the causeway known as the Bear Cut Bridge. Witnesses told investigators that Bertonatti was driving his Jetta at close to seventy miles per hour in a zone designated at 45 miles per hour, according to the Miami New Times.
Without a plea deal in place, Bertonatti pleaded guilty to all charges with the exception of leaving the scene of an accident. He did so knowing he could face up to a maximum of thirty-seven years of incarceration. Florida State guidelines for the crime necessitate a sentence of a minimum of a little more than eleven and one half years to a maximum of thirty-seven years for a conviction.
At his sentencing hearing, one character witness after another spoke freely of the good deeds Bertonatti played in their lives.
One friend, Adrian Pena, spoke of when in April 2001 Bertonatti saved his life. He spoke of an incident when Bertonatti came to his assistance after he was attacked in front of a Coral Gables hotel. Pena said the attack took place after a fight between his ex-girlfriend and another man that was her current boyfriend at the time. “My throat was sliced ear to ear and Carlos applied a tourniquet and pressed it to my neck… He saw the condition I was in”. At that point Bertonatti’s defense attorney interjected by asking the witness “Is there any doubt that he saved your life?” Pena’s immediate reply was “There is no doubt in my mind.”
A distant cousin, Patricia Rodriguez, testified that “He’s amazing to everyone who meets him and he touches their heart. He is a good person. And he is loyal.”
In what might have been the most compelling sympathetic testimony, Bertonatti’s sister Daniela, now 25 testified that her brother was constantly at her side during three months of her rehabilitation after a failed attempt of committing suicide when she was only 14 years old. She passionately spoke, by stating that the incident took place after she was out that night drinking heavily. She ultimately hurdled herself from her parent’s balcony which was on the 9th floor of their apartment building.
Close to tears, she continued by saying, “I was shattered inside and I was dying,” She went on to add that she suffered a broken pelvis along with her ankles being crushed.
“He told me to be strong and hold on… He told me not to let go and I did not let go. My brother stayed with me. I find him to be one of the most amazing persons.”
Carlos has been living under house arrest in Key Biscayne since his family put up 10 percent of a $500,000 bond. “I think it’s been enough. Every moment he is in there and every day he is in there he’s come to terms with what has happened,” his sister said. “He feels so terribly guilty about what has happened.” She went on to say that her brother felt a “lifelong responsibility” to helping LeCanne’s widow, Sandra.
Bertonatti broke down on several occasions during his sister’s testimony
The convicted man’s music producer and close friend Chris Rodriguez continued the tribute to Bertonatti by testifying that, “There’s a magical thing about Carlos. He is talented and a great person. He has a charisma that is very rare. He’s one of those guys whose heart is always open. He will always do the right thing… This accident was so bizarre and out of character… I love him. He is part of the family.” Concluding his emotional statement, Rodriguez also broke down on the witness stand, shedding tears.
One of the most damaging illustrations that the prosecution submitted to the Court was Bertonatti’s previous driving record. It exhibited the he had already been charged with 46 hazardous infractions. Among them were speeding, running stop signs, and flying through toll booths without making payments. His license was suspended in 2009 and he was later stopped for driving without valid insurance and operating a motor vehicle without a license, according to the New Times.
In a stunning twist at his original sentencing hearing, Bertonatti’s Brother Miguel told prosecutors that he had stolen his Brother’s identity and it was actually Miguel who was responsible for a substantial amount of the driving offenses as offered by the prosecution. Bertonatti’s attorney’s stated that if those facts were indeed true the Court should be more lenient when the sentence was handed down. With that issue raised, Judge Miller postponed the hearing citing that before his testimony would be allowed, the Brother would need to be assessed by a psychologist.
But the following day, when the sentencing hearing was resumed, Miguel Bertonatti pleaded the fifth under the advice of his newly selected Court appointed attorney. The lawyer also stated that Miguel suffered from “mental health issues.”
But in spite of the emotional demonstrations by friends and family, in finality, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Bronwyn Miller sentence Bertonatti to twelve years in prison.
Judge Miller justified her decision by saying “The decisions made by Carlos Bertonatti on that date cruelly and irreparably destroyed life as it was known to the entire LeCanne family. Mr. Bertonatti’s actions extinguished the life of a loving husband, father and an outstanding human being.”
Despite all the positive testimony on Bertonatti’s behalf, a man was killed due to his negligence while driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
Reports say that the immediate LeCanne family is pleased with the ruling. “The state of Florida is very thankful for the judge’s very thoughtful and just sentence,” the Prosecutor said after the hearing concluded. “The LeCanne family obviously is touched, they’ve been waiting three years for this,” he said. He mentioned that he would be calling other LeCanne family members who live in France later in the day to let them know the final outcome.
In a separate civil action resulting from the death, Sandra LeCanne the widow of Christophe LeCanne has contended that the “since convicted” Bertonatti supposedly spent hours at Club Space drinking before the accident occurred. She argued that the Club should be held liable for her husband’s death as well. This type of suit will test a Florida law that questions whether clubs and bars should be held responsible for damages that are caused by customers that are known to be inebriated, when leaving their premises. According to talkingnightlife.com, an online magazine specializing with popular night clubs in the Miami area “Bertonatti’s alcoholism was ‘well known to many of the staff employed by Club Space,’ the suit claims, and yet on the night of the accident, the club allegedly made no effort to slow his drinking.” Mrs. LeCanne has not specified what damages she will be seeking from the club.
As explained above, the consequences of a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI) vehicular manslaughter or any other related charges can result in extremely disastrous outcomes. Convictions can and often include lengthy prison terms, as well as exposure to civil actions by relatives of the victim. It is imperative that if an individual is charged with any crime related to DUI to immediately contact an experienced attorney, who practices in the in the tri-county area (Dade, Broward & Palm Beach counties), and has successfully handled many cases of this sort.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.
Mr. Cohen’s practice has recently expanded and he is now a partner in the prestigious law firm of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. Through this partnership, Mr. Cohen can now lead your defense in the New York Metropolitan area in addition to the Broward, Dade, or Palm Beach County areas as well as all other jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida
Mr. Cohen is also listed in the 2013 edition of “Best Lawyers in America”