Michele Traverso, Driver in Fatal Rickenbacker Causeway Hit and Run, Sentenced to 364 Days in Jail

The sentence also includes two years of supervision following his release

By Donna Rapado and Jawan Strader
|  Thursday, Jan 17, 2013  |  Updated 6:34 AM EDT
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Michele Traverso is sentenced to 364 days in jail in the Rickenbacker Causeway hit-and-run that killed bicyclist Aaron Cohen. Cohen's wife Patti and father Stephen react to the sentence.

Michele Traverso is sentenced to 364 days in jail in the Rickenbacker Causeway hit-and-run that killed bicyclist Aaron Cohen. Cohen's wife Patti and father Stephen react to the sentence.

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A judge on Wednesday sentenced the driver who pleaded guilty in the hit-and-run crash that killed a cyclist on the Rickenbacker Causeway to 364 days in jail.

Judge William Thomas' sentence for Michele Traverso also includes two years of supervision following his release.

Traverso's sentence could have been as much as 35 years, and prosecutors had recommended 6 years in state prison and 5 years of probation.

The sentence that was handed down upset family members and supporters of cyclist Aaron Cohen, the 36-year-old cyclist who died from his injuries the day after the Feb. 15 crash.

Photos and Videos

State Recommends 6 Years in Prison for Rickenbacker Driver

Prosecutors on Wednesday recommended 6 years in state prison and 5 years of probation for Michele Traverso, the driver who pleaded guilty in the hit-and-run crash that killed cyclist Aaron Cohen. Cohen's friend Enda Walsh, who was injured in the crash, spoke at Traverso's sentencing hearing Wednesday.

Video Released in Rickenbacker Hit-and-Run

New surveillance video connected with a deadly hit-and-run on the Rickenbacker Causeway shows the driver charged with leaving the scene of the accident pulling past his condominium gate guard afterward, as the guard stares at the banged-up Honda Civic with a shattered windshield. Michele Traverso, 25, has pleaded not guilty to charges of leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury and driving with a suspended license. His attorney has said the only crime Traverso committed was leaving the scene.
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"We're serving a life sentence with what happened," said his widow, Patti Cohen. "And we're just even getting used to it, not even starting to understand how to deal with it. So, it's really really different."

She also said she is ready to move on and continue with the healing process.

Father Stephen Cohen said during Wednesday's sentencing hearing in a Miami-Dade courtroom that he wasn't even satisfied with what prosecutors recommended.

"I think that this is a situation that at least in my opinion required a harsher sentence, I'm not saying what that sentence should've been, but i think it required a harsher sentence," he said after he left the courtroom.

Traverso pleaded guilty in September to charges of leaving the scene of an accident involving death, leaving the scene of an accident involving great bodily harm and driving with a suspended license.

Traverso fatally struck Cohen, whose widow and parents spoke during the hearing.

"Our loss is unbearable. I cry at night," Patti Cohen said.

Cohen's father was stoic, while his mother was very emotional.

Friends Remember Cyclist Killed in Hit and Run

Traverso was also emotional, crying as he rested his head on his intertwined hands. He wore an orange jumpsuit.

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"I know what I took from you is irreplaceable. I'm responsible for killing your husband and the father of your two children and that alone is unmeasurable," he told Patti Cohen. "The grief you're going through, I'm sorry, I'm very sorry. I apologize from the bottom of my heart."

Traverso's mother pleaded for leniency for her son.

On Feb. 15 Traverso also injured Enda Walsh, who was riding with Cohen on the eastbound side of the Rickenbacker near the William Powell Bridge, according to police.

“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," Walsh said at the hearing. "In the middle of our conversation there was a very loud bang and I hit the ground."

When prosecutors showed Judge William Thomas a photo of Traverso’s bashed-in and shattered windshield, there were many soft sobs and tears in the packed courtroom. About 80 people attended the hearing.

Traverso fled the scene but later turned himself in to authorities. He surrendered to police 18 hours after the crash, and investigators could not prove that his blood alcohol level was above the state limit because of that delay, authorities said.

Traverso had been on probation on cocaine charges at the time of the crash.

Video Released in Rickenbacker Hit and Run

Since the crash, the county has made some changes to Rickenbacker Causeway to increase safety. They added white striping with ridges on the road at the William Powell and Bear Cut Bridges for a bigger buffer between cyclists and drivers, with the ridges vibrating to alert drifting drivers. A second white line was also added from the toll booth into Key Biscayne to Hobie Beach.

Key Biscayne Bridge to Undergo Safety Changes

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