Hit and run cyclist killer sentenced
MIAMI (WSVN) -- The man convicted of a fatal hit and run bike accident has been sentenced to 364 days in county jail, considering time served.
A judge handed down the sentence just before 7 p.m. Wednesday. Michele Traverso will serve time for leaving the scene of an accident with death, leaving the scene of an accident with grave bodily harm, driving with a suspended license and possession of cocaine. The actual sentence was 22.8 months in state prison, but the defendant received credit for time served since he was arrested on the night of the incident.
Traverso crashed into 36-year-old Aaron Cohen and his friend Enda Walsh as they biked across the Rickenbacker Causeway Feb. 15, 2012 at about 5:40 a.m. Walsh was injured, but Cohen died at Jackson Memorial Hospital shortly thereafter. Traverso hit Cohen and Walsh as he was driving to his Key Biscayne home after meeting some friends in Coconut Grove.
Traverso's 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. The state prosecution asked for a six-year conviction.
Family and friends of Cohen came from across the country to be at Traverso's 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." Cohen's family wanted Traverso to serve 30 years for his crimes, the maximum sentence he could have served.
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."
In addition to his sentence, Traverso will also serve two years of community control.
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