STUART, Fla. — A Lauderhill police officer who pulled in front of a Treasure Coast motorcyclist last summer, killing him, will not face any penalties.
A Martin County judge this week decided Officer Jehoshua Newell was not guilty and dropped the fine and citation for an improper lane change causing a fatality.
A Florida Highway Patrol investigation found that on Aug. 10, 2019, a motorcyclist from Port St. Lucie, Robert "Chino" Perone, was traveling north on Interstate 95.
At the same time, Newell was also on I-95 in Martin County. He had been part of a multi-county pursuit for a stolen car.
The pursuit was called off, but Newell saw officers on the other side of the road responding to an unrelated crash. He pulled over to assist them, but in doing so, an investigation found, he drastically reduced his speed while quickly changing lanes. Perone was behind him and would have only had a couple of seconds to react. He hit the back of the patrol car.
Perone was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
His friend, Dorothy Reynolds, helped set up a roadside memorial near mile marker 90.
"Every 10th of the month, we come and celebrate his life," Reynolds said.
She and other loved ones of Perone were disappointed by the judge's decision, saying they feel justice wasn't served.
"If that was an average Joe, we would have been slapped with a fine. We would have been slapped with jail time," Reynolds said.
Stephen Melnick, Newell's attorney, disagreed.
"He was not getting any special privileges. He received a traffic citation," Newell told WPTV. "The Florida Highway Patrol believed Mr. Newell was at fault and cited him the same as anybody else would have been for the tragedy."
Newell went on to say that the court, "based on the evidence that was presented in the hearing, felt the state failed to meet its burden of proof."
After Perone's death, the FHP investigation found that had Perone survived, he would have been charged with drunken driving, finding he had a blood-alcohol content more than twice the legal limit. The investigation found that his reaction to Newell's lane change may have been slowed as a result, but the outcome of the crash still might not have changed.
There are no further actions against Newell in this case, according to Melnick.