Reporting Peter D’Oench
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Key Biscayne man is apologizing for driving drunk and taking the life of a bicyclist on the Rickenbacker Causeway in January of 2010.
“Once again I extend my deepest apology for the suffering and loss I have caused,” said 32-year-old
Carlos Bertonatti, who testified at his sentencing hearing on Monday at the Metro Justice Building after he pleaded guilty in February to charges including DUI manslaughter.
That crash took the life of 44-year-old Christophe LeCanne. LeCanne’s widow and parents
live in France and could not attend the hearing. Bertonatti apologized to them for 13 minutes and addressed them as well.
“I would like to look them in the eye and apologize,” he said. “And I would also like to apologize because I would call this an incident rather than an accident. I find no words to describe the shame, guilt and remorse that I feel. I am tormented by the damage that I have caused them. I stand before you today to say that I have come up short.”
“The one thing that is constant is that I never meant to hurt anyone,” he testified. “I never meant to hurt Christophe. I had too much to drink. I irresponsibly got behind the wheel of the car. I blacked out and I hit someone and left him in the road.”
“I was taught to contribute to life. Not to take away from it. I wish it had been me, rather than him,”
Bertonatti testified. “I want them to know I will carry the burden of this the rest of my life and I will never
forget this. From my heart to them, I am really sorry.”
Bertonatti’s family members wept as he apologized.
“I is my hope I will be given a chance to repay my debt to society,” he said.
There was also testimony Monday from Miami-Dade Police detective Mark Slimak, who said
Bertonatti “expressed no remorse” after the accident and he initially “didn’t believe he killed anyobody.”
Bertonatti testified he didn’t realize he had struck the bicyclist.
Also in court, Judith Ramey, a representative of the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, read
“impact statements” from LeCanne’s widow and parents.
“As parents we have to live with this impossible pain,” said one statement from the parents.
“My husband had so many years to live,” said the statement from LeCanne’s widow Sandra.
“Someone decided otherwise. I will never understand how someone with more than 40
traffic citations can be allowed to drive. His behavior was like that of someone who was guilty. He
didn’t want to be caught.”
“If you leave someone on the side of the road, I do not see this as a good person,” said the statement
from Sandra LeCanne. “It’s also time to send a message about drunk driving.”
Based on sentencing guidelines, Carlos Bertonatti could face between 11.5 years to 37 years behind bars. His sentencing hearing, which began Monday morning, could last into Tuesday.
Going into the hearing, Bertonatti’s attorneys were reportedly going to argue for a reduced sentence because their client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
But Bertonatti himself threw a monkey wrench into their plans.
“Do you suffer from any mental illness,” asked the judge.
“Not that I know of judge, no,” replied Bertonatti.
“Do you wish for him to still submit to the court that you require specialized treatment for a mental disorder or do you wish for him to withdraw that,” asked the judge.
“No, I’m in control,” replied Bertonatti.
Last February Bertonatti pled guilty to DUI Manslaughter failure to render aid, two counts of resisting an officer without violence and one count of fleeing and eluding a police officer.
Prosecutors said Bertonatti had 46 traffic citations. Defense Attorney Roberto Pentiera said Bertonatti was not responsible for all of those citations.
That’s because Bertonatti’s 28-year-old brother, Miguel Bertonatti, testified that he had been using his brother’s driver’s license in some of the instances where citations were issued. Miguel Bertonatti said he was prepared to testify to that but on Monday afternoon, he told Circuit Judge Bronwyn Miller that he needed to seek the advice of an attorney. The Judge said she would deal with this matter Tuesday morning.
In January, 2010, Bertonatti was drunk behind the wheel of his silver Volkswagen when he struck 44-year old Christophe Le Canne on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
With Le Canne’s bicycle wedged under his bumper, Bertonatti led police on a short chase before they were able to pull him over.
Bertonatti’s blood alcohol test came back at .122.
“I never meant to leave him on the side of the road,” Bertonatti told the judge on the day he accepted the guilty plea. “I can’t fix it. The purpose of my life has changed because of the actions I took. I will always feel responsible and I beg for your forgiveness.”
A CBS4 News investigation after the accident revealed Le Canne died waiting for help. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue took almost 20 minutes to arrive because the fire station down the road was closed because of budget cuts. That fire station has since been reopened and the bicycle lanes have been widened on the causeway.