"He had the opportunity to make a right decision and stop, swerve, or do whatever possible to avoid hurting my baby," the mother told the court. "But he chose not to. He just didn't care to avoid this tragedy."

The court, however, handed ­Garcia a 30-month sentence with credit for the 24 months he'd already been incarcerated, followed by deportation to his native Mexico.

But the highest-profile — and ultimately most consequential — instance of a motorist's fleeing the scene of a horrible accident happened in February 2010.

While piloting his bike over the Rickenbacker Causeway, Aaron Cohen, a 36-year-old married father of two, was run down. His riding partner was seriously injured.

Behind the wheel, Michele Traverso didn't even slow. Fresh off a night of drinking at Moe's in Coconut Grove, the 26-year-old sped home, where he hid his car beneath a tarp. At the time, Traverso's license was suspended due to a cocaine possession charge. Eighteen hours later, the driver turned himself in to police.

Traverso pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving death and leaving the scene of an accident involving serious injury. In January 2013, a Miami-Dade judge gave him less than a year in jail.

It was the startled reaction at the sentencing from a courtroom squeezed tight with Cohen's friends and fellow Miami bike scenesters that set the stage for the changes in the law.

"As a society, what the judge said with that sentencing is that it's OK to kill somebody and leave as long as they're on a bicycle," says Mickey Witte, a local bike activist who was in the courtroom for the shocking outcome.

Witte and other concerned bikers began to collaborate on new legislation that would sew up the loophole. But they faced trouble in Tallahassee. "Originally, we wanted to have a seven-year mandatory minimum sentence," says Eli Stiers, a Miami trial attorney who helped craft the legislation. "There was a lot of opposition to that."

Eventually termed the Aaron Cohen Protection Act, the bill settled for a four-year minimum. It includes harsher punishments when the victims are "vulnerable road users" such as cyclists and pedestrians. The bill has been passed by the House and Senate. It awaits Gov. Rick Scott's signature.

For Miguel Larrieu and Jorge Arrojas, the law is too little, too late. The pair came from prominent Cuban families that immigrated in the early 1960s. They met as 20-somethings and moved in together shortly thereafter, eventually building a house in Southwest Ranches. Arrojas, a retired postal worker, paid all the bills from the pair's joint bank account and cared for four Paso Fino horses on the two-acre property.

"He was my best friend and my lifelong companion," Larrieu says. "And this man ended all of that in less than 30 seconds."

The crash tore a hole through Larrieu's life. He's left trying to learn to pay the bills by himself as well as to check in daily on Arrojas' 88-year-old mother. And he waits for news on the investigation. And waits.

"I pray every day that justice will prevail," Larrieu says. "This person didn't even call an ambulance. He didn't even come to see how we were doing."

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1 comments
bfouges
bfouges

You get as much justice as you can afford. It's one of the many reasons why one day the public will simply have had enough and begin to take back the government & judiciary system. 

 
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