MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The brother of Carlos Bertonatti broke down in tears inside a Miami courtroom as he refused to give testimony that could help lessen Carlos’s sentence for DUI manslaughter.
“Are there any other questions that can be answered?” the defense attorney Roberto Pertierra asked.
“I’m taking the 5th amendment. I’m done,” said Miguel Bertonatti.
He then bowed his head and started crying after repeatedly refusing to testify about a claim he initially made in court earlier in the week.
He claimed he was responsible for more than a dozen of the citations that were linked to his brother Carlos. He said he had lost his license and was using Carlos’s license, which is why the record showed Carlos with so many citations.
Defense attorney Roberto Pertierra said in court that as many as 30 of the 46 traffic citations could be tied to Miguel Bertonatti, who on the advice of attorneys was interviewed by a psychologist and deemed fit to testify. A psychologist interviewed him because there was testimony in court on Tuesday that Miguel had “mental health issues.”
In court, Miguel decided not to testify about the citations. “I refuse to answer because of the 5th amendment,” he repeatedly said. Pertierra said in court that Miguel had “no honor.” He refused to speak with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench as he left the Metro Justice Building.
Thirty-two-year-old Carlos Bertonatti pleaded guilty in February to DUI manslaughter. He had been drinking at Club Space in downtown Miami and it was just after 8 a.m. when he was driving home to Key Biscayne when his 2007 Volkswagen Jetta struck 44-year-old Christophe LeCanne as he was riding on the Bear Cut Bridge.
Police finally found Bertonatti more than two miles away from the scene in Key Biscayne.
In closing arguments at the sentencing hearing, Prosecutor Warren Eth said Bertonatti recklessly drove drunk and fled the scene and then did not cooperate with officers when they arrested him. Bertonatti had testified that he fell asleep while driving and had not realized that he struck LeCanne.
Pointing dramatically at Bertonatti, Eth told the court, “Because of his actions and his deeds, Mister LeCanne went home broken to France in a box. There is no way this man didn’t know he hit somebody.”
Eth pulled out the mangled bicycle from a box and said, “He dragged this bicycle under the car and there was screeching metal. Not a single tear was shed by Bertonatti. Not a single question was asked about the man left dying in the road.”
“There is a common theme with Bertonatti. It is I, I, I. His deeds show he cares only about himself. He drank to the point of intoxication and was point one two two. The state recommends not less than 18 years followed by five years’ probation and 1,000 hours of community service.”
He said the victim’s parents who live in France are in favor of an 18-year sentence.
Sally Matson, a Victim Advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told D’Oench, “MADD’s position nationwide is that prosecution and enforcement in DUI cases change behavior. You never feel good about someone going to prison but there has to be consequences for a life taken.”
Pertierra said a four-year sentence would be appropriate and he said that would be similar to sentences given recently to Carly Tomica and Ivanna Villanueva in other DUI deaths.
“We wanted to be treated fairly in this jurisdiction,” said Pertierra.
Eth protested in rebuttal that Tomica was only 19-years-old and had been sentenced to four years as a youthful offender. He said Tomica had “no priors” and the victim’s family agreed with the sentence. Villanueva received a three year sentence.
Pertierra asked why the focus was on Bertonatti being “diabolical” when “he told the court I’m sorry.”
“This is a young man who does not deserve more than a four year sentence,” Pertierra said. “If this young man is released his potential for success is tremendous.”
Pertierra said Bertonatti, who has so far been in jail for 27 months, was a “unqiue wonderful human being who will have to carry this tragic act with him for the rest of his life. You can’t have a more destroyed young man.”
Music Producer Chris Rodriguez testified on Tuesday that Bertonatti was a talented musician with a bright future.
While state guidelines call for a sentence of between 11 ½ and 37 years, Circuit Judge Bronwyn Miller has discretion. The minimum mandatory sentence is four years. Judge Miller said she would announce her sentence at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.