A tale of three DUIs
#1 Karlie Tomica
There are two kinds of mistakes that we can make – the ones that can be fixed, and the ones that can’t be fixed. I thought of this as I watched the sentencing last week of 20 year old Karlie Tomica, a young Miami Beach woman found guilty in the death of 49 year old Executive Chef Stefano Riccioletti, who was walking home after work at the Miami Beach Shore Club’s Terrazzo Restaurant at about 6am on January 29th of this year.
At about the same time Mr. Riccioletti was leaving work, Ms. Tomica happened to be doing the same thing – except in the case of Ms. Tomica, she was behind the wheel of her car, and she had, by her own admission, been drinking throughout her shift. The paths of these two Miami Beach service industry workers would soon collide in the most unfortunate of ways, when Ms. Tomica’s vehicle struck Chef Riccioletti, catapulting the father of two into the driveway of the hotel.
Perhaps either out of fear, or out of oblivious alcoholic abandon, Ms. Tomica fled the scene, leaving Mr. Riccioletti to die in the street. Good Samaritan Jairo Fuentes witnessed the crash and followed Ms. Tomica’s car, calling 911 as he pursued her through the streets of Miami Beach to her Collins Avenue apartment. It was there that police would soon arrest her.
Last week, the tearful, self-proclaimed “Party Princess”, was sentenced in a Miami courtroom to serve four years in the penitentiary, followed by two years of house arrest, followed by 15 years of probation. In addition, her driving privileges were revoked for life. Also, in a unique but thoughtful sentencing twist, she is ordered to write a check to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) each year on Stefano Riccioletti’s birthday, the amount of the check to equal the age that Mr. Riccioletti would have been on that day.
The plea bargain that Ms. Tomica accepted saved her from what was thought to be an inevitable 30 year prison sentence.
#2 Donte Stallworth
Occupation: NFL wide receiver
On the morning of March 14, 2009, my wife and I were driving my niece to a Cosmopolitan magazine photo shoot at Nikki Beach Resort in Miami Beach (yes, the same place that Karlie Tomica worked). It was early on a Saturday morning, so the trip to Miami Beach should have been a breeze, but it wasn’t. The MacArthur Causeway, a main arterial roadway that runs between Interstate 95, and Miami Beach, was shut down due to an accident that had occurred some hours before. As we crawled through traffic we could see the empty Causeway, and we could only speculate as to the nature of the devastating event that had caused it to be closed.
By the time we returned home that evening, television news was a abuzz with details about a deadly automobile crash on the MacArthur Causeway, a crash that involved none other than NFL wide receiver, Donte Stallworth. For those of you who may not follow U.S. professional sports, Mr. Stallworth is a professional football player of some repute. As such, he has enjoyed a successful career with the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, and the Baltimore Ravens. In short, Mr. Stallworth is endowed with a great deal of athletic prowess and he has made a great deal of money on the football field.
In the early morning hours of March 14th, though, it was a severely impaired Donte Stallworth who was piloting his six-figure Bentley convertible across the MacArthur. Near the eastern end of the causeway, Mr. Stallworth struck and killed 59 year old construction worker Mario Reyes. Mr. Reyes was a crane operator who was hurrying to catch a bus home after his shift ended at a nearby work site. Reyes was, by police reports, not within the crosswalk, a fact not lost on Mr. Stallworth, who later stated that he flashed his lights at Reyes in an attempt to get him to move, as he bore down on him in his Bentley.
Toxicology reports determined that Mr. Stallworth was under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, and on April 1st, 2009 police arrested the football star on charges of DUI manslaughter. He was released the next day after posting $200,000 bail. Mr. Stallworth later accepted a plea bargain in order to avoid years of jail time. He was sentenced to 30 days in the county lockup; 1000 hours of community service; and eight years probation. In addition, he received a lifetime revocation of his driving privileges.
Mr. Stallworth was released from custody on July 9, 2009 after spending 24 days in the County Joint. After being banned from football for the entire 2009 season, Mr. Stallworth has since been reinstated and continues to play professionally.
#3 John Goodman
Occupation: Polo Club Mogul
Travel with me now if you will, up Florida’s Turnpike to the very horsey community of Wellington. John Goodman (no relation to actor John Goodman) certainly had it all if anyone did – and perhaps he still does. Goodman was heir to a 1.4 billion dollar fortune, amassed by his father in the air conditioning and heating business. Mr. Goodman founded the International Polo Club in Palm Beach, a really high end kind of place that attracted the ultra-rich, and the very famous, including Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Sylvester Stallone and Madonna. Personally, I am not up on my polo, so I don’t know who’s playing who, or how the game is played – but I do know how it starts – lots of cash.
On the evening of February 12, 2010, Mr. Goodman was drinking heavily at a charity event. After settling up a $200 bar tab (by the way, Mr. Goodman left the bartender a $60 tip), he barreled away in his Bentley, ostensibly, as he would tell the court in later testimony, to get a Wendy’s frosty before the ‘fast-food’ restaurant closed.
Ah well, the stories we tell ourselves…
In route to “Wendy’s”, perhaps for a frosty to cleanse his palate after enjoying a number of tequila shots, Mr. Goodman severely underestimated the proximity of an intersection and ran through a stop sign, ploughing his Bentley into a Hyundai driven by a 23 year old University of Central Florida engineering student named Scott Wilson. Mr. Wilson’s Hyundai, with Mr. Wilson still inside, was ejected from the roadway into a canal (we have lots of canals in South Florida), where he subsequently drowned.
Mr. Goodman, apparently unaware of what had just happened, rushed from his totaled Bentley to the comfort of a nearby barn, where a friend maintained a “man cave”. It was here that our Polo Mogul sought solace in a number of alcoholic drinks as he attempted to regain his composure before calling authorities. Small wonder his blood alcohol level would be nearly two times the legal limit when he was arrested on DUI manslaughter charges.
In the days since, much has transpired in this case. Mr. Goodman was in jail for some time, and then was released on house arrest (house arrest being somewhat more palatable when one’s house is the size of half a county). But this is a slow winding case. Defended by Roy Black, one of the foremost defense attorneys in the United States, the future of Mr. Goodman is still unclear.
Although he received a guilty verdict in the case, Mr. Goodman has now won a new trial. This in spite of the fact that much has marred Mr. Goodman’s case, including his adoption of his girlfriend to help shelter his children’s assets from forfeiture. Fortunately for Mr. Goodman, a juror from his trial came forward with a confession that that juror had been less than forthright when being interviewed for a seat on the jury. Apparently, said juror’s wife had a DUI which the juror had failed to mention in the pre-selection interview.
Now all bets are off as Mr. Goodman looks forward to a second trial. He knows what he is doing. He has already paid a massive amount of money to his victim’s family (reported, but not confirmed to be, 46 million dollars). He has the best representation, and the best accommodations. He has also probably sheltered a fortune for the day he anticipates walking free.
As of this writing Mr. Goodman remains under house arrest in his Wellington, Florida mansion under 4 million dollars bail.
So there you have it. The story of the three DUIs here in Florida. All began with one common denominator – excess and recklessness. Three people are dead – all of them had years of life ahead.
Make of this what you will.
So I conclude…
Leave the last one on the bar my friend,
And call a cab.