The South Florida musician charged in the hit-and-run crash that killed a cyclist on the Rickenbacker Causeway took back his use of the word "accident" to describe the incident on the first day of his sentencing hearing Monday.
Carlos Bertonatti, 32, faces a maximum of 35 years behind bars after he pleaded guilty in February in the January 2010 crash in Key Biscayne that killed Christophe LeCanne.
“The truth is that this was a freak accident and I'm really, really sorry," he said during that February hearing.
After apologizing again to the victim's family on Monday, Bertonatti said that calling it an accident unsettled and shocked some people.
“And so for the sake of and out of respect for the LeCanne family, I would happily take that statement back and call it an incident rather than an accident. I think that’s more appropriate," said Bertonatti, who wore an orange jumpsuit in court. "But I want to make it a hundred percent clear that my use of the word was in no way, shape or form or fashion an attempt to lessen any degree of culpability in this matter that I take extremely, extremely seriously.”
Bertonatti's sentencing hearing is expected to conclude Tuesday.
Bertonatti had been charged with DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and resisting arrest without violence. Despite having no plea deal, he pleaded guilty to every charge except leaving the scene of a crash.
Police say Bertonatti, an on-the-rise musician originally from Venezuela, was driving his silver Volkswagen Jetta on the Rickenbacker Causeway when he hit the 44-year-old LeCanne, who was riding his bike in the bike lane.
Rather than stop, Bertonatti kept driving, with LeCanne's bike still under his car for nearly three miles before officers caught up to him, police said.
Authorities later said his blood alcohol level was .122, over Florida's legal limit of .08.
Driver Facing DUI Charge After Train Hits Car: BSO
When officers told Bertonatti that he'd struck and killed the cyclist, he didn't believe them, police said.
"He's not dead, you're lying to me, cops do that stuff all the time, I don't believe you," Bertonatti said, according to the police report of the incident.
Bertonatti remains behind bars without bond.
During the hearing where Bertonatti pleaded guilty, he apologized to LeCanne's family, saying what he "took away is irreplaceable."
"I still find it very difficult to express the incredible amount of pain, the shame, the guilt, and remorse that I have experienced because of this," Bertonatti told LeCanne's family. "I want to let you know if I could trade places with Christophe today I would."
Bertonatti said in court on Monday, “First and foremost, I’d like to once again extend my deepest apologies to the LeCanne family for the suffering and the loss that I have caused them."
"Unfortunately, Mrs. LeCanne is not here. Neither is her daughter, otherwise I would have liked to very much look them in the eye and apologize to them like I did back in February with Christophe’s parents and his brother, because I think that they are equally if not more deserving," he said.