Identity theft twist in sentencing of Key Biscayne man for cyclist’s death

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Prosecutors say Carlos Bertonatti, the Key Biscayne musician who killed a cyclist in a drunk-driving hit-and-run crash on Bear Cut Bridge, has racked up 46 traffic citations in over a decade of driving.

But now, as prosecutors seek to use Bertonatti’s reckless driving history against him in pushing for lengthy prison time in the cyclist’s death, Bertonatti’s brother emerged Monday with a stunning revelation:

Miguel Bertonatti told prosecutors he had secretly used his brother’s identity when he racked up more than a dozen tickets over the years.

The claim, pushed by Bertonatti’s lawyers, is aimed at minimizing the defendant’s criminal history as a Miami-Dade judge weighs whether to sentence the convicted man as indicated under the state’s sentencing guidelines: between 11.65 years and 37 years in prison.

His defense lawyers are asking for him to be sentenced to less time behind bars.

Prosecutors learned of Miguel Bertonatti’s claim during a deposition Monday in advance of the brother’s testimony during an afternoon sentencing hearing.

“The earth shattering significance of this cannot be understated,” prosecutor Warren Eth told the judge. “The potential criminal liability to both brothers is huge.”

Defense attorney Roberto Pertierra said the claim was exaggerated and that Miguel Bertonatti had prepared for possible criminal charges.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Bronwyn Miller will decide Tuesday on a sentence for Carlos Bertonatti. a one-time aspiring pop star, even as Miguel Bertonatti will hire a lawyer and decide whether to admit in court to stealing his brother’s identity.

In February, 32-year-old Carlos Bertonatti pleaded guilty to killing cyclist Christopher LeCanne in January 2010

Bertonatti had been drinking at Club Space in downtown Miami, where he had bought a Red Bull and Absolut Vodka. Just after 8 a.m., he was driving home when he plowed into LeCanne as the cyclist rode on the bridge toward Key Biscayne, speeding off with the man’s bicycle wedged underneath his 2007 Volkswagen Jetta.

“The impact was horrific and ejected Mr. LeCanne from the bicycle,” prosecutors wrote in a motion opposing a lenient sentence. “Eyewitnesses near the impact point, all the way to when the defendant dislodged the bike from underneath the vehicle, described an ungodly, loud scraping metal sound.”

Police caught up with Bertonatti 2.5 miles away in Key Biscayne.

“He’s not dead. You’re lying to me. Cops do that stuff all the time. I don’t believe you!” Bertonatti told police, according to testimony Monday from Miami-Dade Officer Mark Slimak, a DUI specialist.

The drama of Monday’s hearing focused on Bertonatti’s 28-year-old brother, Miguel, who admitted to prosecutors he most recently gave his sibling’s identity during a December 2009 traffic stop, just a few days before the DUI crash.

Carlos Bertonatti told the court that he was actually in Guatemala visiting friends when the traffic ticket was issued.

He admitted, however, pleading guilty to the ticket for speeding and driving without a valid license, despite not actually being behind the wheel. At the time, Bertonatti was represented by one of his current attorneys, Leonard Sands.

“Why would you plead to something that wasn’t yours?” Eth asked Bertonatti during Monday’s sentencing hearing.

“To protect my brother,” Bertonatti said, adding later: “He’s my brother ... why would I tell on my own brother?”

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