The former Miss Miami Lakes, who was arrested for clubbing a guest with a baseball bat at her holiday party in December, had her charges dismissed Wednesday by a Miami judge who ruled she acted in self-defense under the state’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.
Vanessa Barcelo's lawyer, Jimmy DeMiles, argued that her actions fell under the 2005 self-defense law, which eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat before using deadly force to counter an apparent threat. The law also gave judges more leeway to dismiss charges if they deemed someone acted in self-defense.
After an eight-hour hearing, Miami-Dade County Judge Michelle Alvarez Barakat dismissed the misdemeanor battery charge against Barcelo, who was Miss Miami Lakes 2017.
In a teary testimony in a Miami courtroom, Barcelo, 27, said the boozy party she hosted at her Hialeah home Dec. 21 was to showcase her business — One Love Cakes. She was 26 at the time.
Among the family and friends was one attendee, a disc jockey named David Duperon, who was invited to help promote the cake business.
Barcelo testified that after her cousin Tanya Terrero got sick from alcohol, she noticed Duperon take the nearly unconscious Terrero into a first-floor bathroom. She told Duperon that she could have taken care of her cousin, and that he didn't need to touch her.
"He was rubbing the side of my leg, saying ‘Go! This is your party! I'll take care of her,’’’ Barcelo told her defenser lawyers, DeMiles and Adam Goodman.
Barcelo said she left to get paper towels to clean up vomit and when she came back, Duperon was carrying Terrero over his shoulder to the upstairs master bathroom.
Duperon then undressed Terrero in front of her, and Barcelo left to get help, she said.
“He started taking off Tanya's clothes to ‘take a shower,’’’ Barcelo said. “I got in panic mode. I had the worst feeling inside.”
When she returned, he had locked the bathroom door. He opened it after a minute of knocking to reveal dimmed lights and an undressed Terroro, who testified that she did not remember anything.
“He made me feel very uncomfortable,” Barcelo said. “This is my family. He's a nobody in relation to [Terrero].”
Barcelo and her friends yelled at Duperon to leave and when he didn't, a shouting match ensued.
“I could hear my little sister crying,” said Barcelo.
Barcelo and her friends eventually got Duperon out of the house by crowding him, which was when Barcelo wielded the blue aluminum baseball bat “to intimidate him,” she said.
“I never touched him,” she testified.
She said Duperon grabbed the bat from her and swung it in large circles near the crowd of guests.
He testified that he handed the bat to a nearby neighborhood security guard who had gone to the house over parking violations. The security guard, testifying, confirmed that.
Barcelo's friend then punched Duperon in the face, breaking his cheekbone and knocking him to the ground.
Barcelo, who testified she did not know whether he still had the baseball bat, leaped onto Duperon while he was on the ground and slapped his face.
“I was scared for myself and everyone who was there,” she said. "I was afraid that I would get hit with the bat. I didn't know what else could have happened.”
The police report from that evening indicates that, “At one point, most of guests, including the arrested, became very intoxicated.’’
When asked whether he had permission to be on her property, bat or no bat, Barcelo testified, “Not at all."
And when asked why she hit him in the first place, she answered: “I was defending myself.”