A restitution hearing for a homeless man accused of stealing a backhoe in Marathon and taking it for a midnight ride on the Seven Mile Bridge in February has been reset for Nov 21.
Carl J. Blahnik, 60, did not get up from his chair to appear before Acting Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker at 9 a.m. at the Marathon courthouse Thursday. The hearing was to set court-ordered costs for causing extensive damage to the bridge and the backhoe during the 90-minute ride.
Assistant State Attorney Jon Byrne told Becker that more time is needed to determine Blahnik’s restitution amount.
“We had an amount of $42,000 to $43,000,” said Byrne, adding that Blahnik and his public defender want the amount to be $12,000.
The restitution hearing was rescheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 21.
According to an arrest affidavit from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, damage to the 2015 John Deere backhoe was estimated at $3,000. It was owned by Sunbelt Rentals in Marathon and was being rented by David Marlin, who said he did not know Blahnik or give him permission to use it.
Blahnik used the heavy equipment to drop large rocks across the north entrance of the span on Feb. 16. He then headed south at 13 mph and nearly made it to the bridge’s south end at mile marker 40. Two Sheriff’s Office patrol cars cut him off but Blahnik reversed and headed north.
Deputies chased the backhoe — a slow-speed chase — while Blahnik drove back and forth. The backhoe finally stopped when deputies set up road spikes to deflate its tires.
Blahnik is in the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island on $32,500 bond.
Ivette Ruiz-Paz, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation’s South Florida district, estimated the backhoe caused about $30,000 in damage to the bridge after hundreds of reflective pavement markers were destroyed and minor damage occurred to the bridge concrete deck.
Blahnik’s charged with one felony count each of grand theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing police, littering 15 pounds to under 500 pounds and two felony counts of criminal mischief causing $1,000 or more in damage.
He is also charged with reckless driving, aggravated assault, driving on a suspended license, driving an unregistered vehicle and not having proper lights for night driving.