MIAMI – A former Miami Beach police officer has been convicted of some but not all charges in a 2011 crash in which he struck and seriously injured two people on the beach while joy-riding with a woman on a police all-terrain vehicle.
The six-person jury reached their verdict Monday in the trial of 33-year-old Derick Kulian after deliberating just over two hours. Kulian was convicted of reckless driving with serious bodily injury but acquitted of driving under the influence.
Trial evidence showed Kuilan's blood-level was above Florida's legal limit to drive when he took a woman at a South Beach nightclub bachelorette party on a high-speed beach ATV ride in pre-dawn darkness.
Kuilan's lawyer said he used bad judgment but committed no crime. Kuilan did not testify in his own defense.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
A jury on Monday began deliberating the fate of an ex-Miami Beach police officer accused of crashing into and seriously injuring two people while joy-riding in pre-dawn darkness with a woman on the beach using a police all-terrain vehicle.
Derick Kuilan is charged with two counts for each victim of driving under the influence and reckless driving, both with serious bodily injury. Jurors began deliberations following closing arguments.
Kuilan, 33, faces up to five years in prison if convicted on each charge. Jurors could also opt for lesser charges.
Trial evidence showed Kuilan was legally drunk while on duty when he invited a woman at a South Beach nightclub bachelorette party to take the high-speed beach ATV ride. Five hours after the crash, Kuilan's blood-alcohol level was still over Florida's 0.08 limit, according to testimony.
Assistant State Attorney David Gilbert told jurors that the alcohol blood test results — which would surely have been higher if Kuilan's blood had been drawn earlier — coupled with the officer's decision to take the ATV out on a pitch black beach was clear evidence of recklessness, not just poor judgment as Kuilan's attorney contended.
"Without his headlights on, he might as well have had a blindfold on," Gilbert said. "Can you get more reckless than that? He was both impaired and reckless on the night of the incident."
Victims Kitzie Nicanor and Luis Almonte both testified, saying they had gone to ocean's edge to watch the sunrise when the ATV slammed into them without warning. Almonte suffered a shattered leg and Nicanor had numerous injuries, including a brain injury she said has left her unable to work. Her spleen was removed, leaving a large scar.
Some of the women at the bachelorette party testified they initially thought Kuilan and his then-partner may have been part of the club's entertainment, perhaps even male strippers. They got the officers to pose for a party cellphone photo that was published around the world after Kuilan was charged by prosecutors.
Kuilan's attorney, Evan Hoffman, noted that Kuilan is also being sued in civil court by the victims, who seek money damages for negligence. Hoffman said that was the proper way to resolve the case, rather than felony criminal convictions.
No one testified that Kuilan was seen drinking alcohol, Hoffman said, and no hard evidence that he was speeding on the ATV or driving it erratically.
"This case is riddled with reasonable doubt, ladies and gentlemen," Hoffman told the jury. "''This is a reckless driving case where there was no reckless driving."
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