Hit and run bicyclist killer to be sentenced
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Dozens of people packed a South Florida courtroom for judgment day against a hit run driver who killed a bicyclist on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Michele Traverso testified at his own sentencing hearing at the Metro Justice Building, Wednesday afternoon, offering an emotional apology to the family of the victim. Besides the parents of the victim, Aaron Cohen, Traverso's own parents were present at the hearing. "I don't know how to ask for forgiveness," he said addressing Cohen's parents, "I really don't. It's really hard to look you in the eye and say I'm sorry."
Cuffed and in a jail jump suit, Traverso admitted he is a murderer. "I'm responsible for killing a person," Traverso said.
Traverso could face as much as 30 years in prison. However, the State is asking for six years followed be five years of reporting probation.
His defense team called expert witnesses that testified Traverso suffers from a health condition that would put him in grave danger should he be placed in jail for several years.
Traverso was set for sentencing after pleading guilty to charges of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death, leaving the scene of an accident with great bodily harm, driving with a suspended license and possession of cocaine.
Traverso is accused of crashing into Cohen and his friend Enda Walsh as they biked across the Rickenbacker Causeway Feb. 15, 2012. Walsh was injured, but Cohen would lose his life.
Family and friends of Cohen came from across the country to be at this hearing. His parents came down from Illinois and testified about the pain they have suffered with the death of their son. "Aaron was taken from us by someone whose only thought was protecting himself," said Lynn Cohen, the mother of the victim, "a person with a complete, contemptuous disregard for human life, and he left our precious son to die on the road like road kill."
Patty Cohen, the victim's widow, spoke with shaking hands, as she tried to describe having to tell her children that their father was gone. "She says, 'Is he gonna get in trouble?' and I need to be able to tell her, 'yes.'" Cohen said about talking with her daughter about the man responsible for killing her father.
Sabrina Cohen, the sister of victim said no time behind bars will be enough to equal the suffering all of Cohen's loved ones have endured with the loss of him in their lives. "He needs to suffer to know to never do this again. No matter how much time he spends in jail, he will never suffer as much as Aaron's friends and family have suffered."
The accused surrendered to police 18 hours after the crash. Reports that Traverso had been drinking before the crash could not be proven because of the time that had elapsed between the crash and the moment police arrested him.
Traverso's mother also apologized on behalf of her son. She said, every day she crosses over the bridge where Cohen died she says a prayer for him and his family. She also spoke about about that morning when Traverso drove home after that accident. She said he was never intoxicated and their family never tried to cover it up.
The State Attorney's Office and the surviving victim both testified that Traverso never stopped to provide assistance. Prosecutor Jane Anderson said, "We can show you that he drove into them and that he kept driving, that he didn't stop, that he didn't slow down."
Walsh said he never knew what hit him. "Without any warning, there was just a loud bang, and there was no car horn, there was no screech of brakes. There was nothing that you would associate with a car trying to stop or a car trying to take evasive action."
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