Missing File in DUI Case Has Man Stuck At Home
By: Chris Kramer
Even those in favor of the harshest penalties for DUI offenses may find it difficult to understand why Cosmo Ricci, 72, has become a prisoner in his own home and could even find that they have sympathy for his situation.
Ricci is on house arrest in St. Augustine, Florida. He was released from jail, fitted with a GPS monitoring bracelet on his ankle, for which he paid $500, and was ordered to stay at home except in the case of a medical emergency.
His supposed crime was a 1996 Florida DUI with a resulting death. The thing is, Ricci was not in Florida in 1996; he lived in Rhode Island at the time and says that he was not involved in the crash. In fact, Ricci was never in Florida at any time between 1972 and June 2007. He moved to Florida in July 2007 because he suffers from congestive heart failure and emphysema.
Ricci says that he discovered seven months ago that there was a warrant for his arrest when he was notified that his Social Security benefits were being discontinued due to an outstanding felony warrant. He contacted lawyers at the local legal aid office and they were attempting to clear his name when he was arrested.
According to a report by First Coast News, Ricci says that he was a victim of identity theft and that the thief is the person responsible for the Florida DUI and manslaughter charges against him. He reported the identity theft to police in Rhode Island in 1990. Ricci says that he doesn't even know exactly when the Florida DUI accident happened - and he may never know because the original file containing the records are missing.
Before his arrest, Ricci had been collecting information and evidence to prove that he was a victim of identity theft. He has compiled work records from Rhode Island that are inconsistent with his Florida driving record. Ricci's lawyer had contacted authorities in Miami to advise them of the identity theft and the situation that Ricci was in, but that did not prevent them from executing the felony DUI warrant.
The accident record that is available shows that the fatal DUI accident happened on April 2, 1996. The report indicates that Ricci was driving drunk when he lost control of his 1981 Toyota pickup. The truck flipped over, partially ejecting a passenger, Roger Cherubin, who died in the accident. Ricci says that he was in Rhode Island at the time of the accident, never met or knew Cherubin and has never owned a 1981 Toyota truck.
The driver in the fatal Florida DUI accident, presumed to be Ricci, had a blood alcohol content of .32 percent. Additionally, Ricci's Florida driving record shows many DUI arrests and speeding tickets. Ricci says that he did not commit any of these offenses.
Just this year Ricci was issued a new Florida driver's license. According to the Florida DMV, no problems were found with Ricci's driving record during a background check and he was able to get his driver's license without a problem. The Florida DMV has no record of the 1996 DUI crash that killed Cherubin. First Coast News reporters found that the Clerk of Courts in Miami-Dade is also missing Ricci's records and that the Miami State's Attorney's Office cannot locate Ricci's original file.
Despite all of the missing files, mismatched evidence and the fact that Ricci did not live in Florida in 1996, he was arrested on the 12-year-old Florida DUI and manslaughter warrant and was taken to jail. He spent more than four days in jail before a Miami judge signed an emergency order that released him to house arrest until his trial.
In the meantime, Ricci is planning to file paperwork with Florida Department of Law Enforcement regarding the identity theft. He would also like to give a blood sample and have his fingerprints analyzed and have them compared to the evidence collected at the scene of the 1996 crash so that his name can finally be cleared. However, without the original file, such comparisons may be impossible.
There has been no date set for a hearing or trial in Ricci's case. The Miami's State Attorney's office says it is aware of Ricci's claims and is investigating. Meanwhile, Ricci is at home, unable to leave his yard while the authorities decide on their next move.