South Florida radio personality DJ Laz pleaded no contest Wednesday in a case that involved a death of a man who was pushing his boat off a sandbar last year.
Laz, real name Lazaro Mendez, was not in court Wednesday.
The family of Ernesto Hernandez, who was killed in the incident off a Nixon Beach sandbar, had hoped to address Mendez in court during this hearing over his careless boating citation.
Mendez chose not to appear.
“He’s a coward. And he should have been here today! And he should’ve taken everyone’s lives into consideration when he was on that boat,” Hernandez’s sister Mildred Hernandez said through tears.
Mendez’s attorney, Mycki Ratzan, said family lawyers orchestrated a media circus and he did not want to be at the center of it.
“Him being here wasn’t going to make them feel any better. Him being here was going to make this all worse,” she told Miami Herald news partner CBS4.
Through his lawyer, Mendez pleaded no contest to careless boating but he would not admit guilt for the incident, in part due to the family’s pending civil lawsuit.
“It’s a tragic accident, that’s what it was. An accident,” Ratzan said.
Mendez expressed concern about the accident during his videotaped deposition but insisted he was not at fault.
“Did I see everyone back away, and would common sense tell you to back away from on motors? Yes.”
Prosecutors argued he did not use care when revving his powerful boat engines while several people pushed his boat. Miami-Dade Judge William Altfield agreed.
In addition to a $500 fee and a $1,000 donation to restore Mashta Flats, where the accident happened, Mendez must complete 120 hours of community service and take a boating safety course before he can operate a boat again.