MIAMI (AP) — A former Miami Beach police officer was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in prison after striking and seriously injuring two people while joy-riding with a woman on the beach using a police all-terrain vehicle.
The judge said Derick Kuilan's actions showed wanton disregard for other's safety. Kuilan was convicted last month of reckless driving with serious bodily injury but acquitted of driving under the influence.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez said the defense's request to sentence under the minimum standard of 90 days was too lenient and that her sentence would still take into account evidence that Kuilan was drinking and driving even though the jury did not find him guilty of that charge.
Trial evidence showed that Kuilan, while on duty and in uniform, had a blood-alcohol level above Florida's 0.08 legal limit to drive when he took a woman at a South Beach nightclub bachelorette party out on the high-speed beach ATV ride. But the defense also showed there was a second blood test that put Kulian's alcohol level below the limit, some five hours after the crash.
"We actually as a society punish individuals more if they bring harm to a police officer while on duty, so shouldn't the opposite hold true particularly when someone is held to that higher standard? Because nobody is above the law," said Mendez.
Kuilan, who did not testify during trial, expressed deep remorse during sentencing, saying he thinks of the victims daily.
"There's mistakes that were made, poor judgment. I agree but I'm not a criminal," said Kuilan, a father of two young children.
Some of the women at the bachelorette party testified they initially thought Kuilan and his then-partner may have been part of the club's entertainment, perhaps even male strippers. They got the officers to pose for a party cellphone photo that was published around the world after Kuilan was charged by prosecutors.
Victims Kitzie Nicanor and Luis Almonte testified during trial that they had gone to ocean's edge to watch the sunrise when the ATV slammed into them. Almonte suffered a shattered leg and Nicanor had numerous injuries, including a brain injury she said has left her unable to work. Her spleen was removed, leaving a large scar.
"He was a sworn officer, sworn to protect not to harm," Nicanor said in a statement read by her attorney.
She said she lives in constant pain, is isolated from friends and family, struggles to care for her child and is traumatized by small thing like taking her son to the park.
"I feel like a 13-year-old in a 32-year-old body," she said in the statement.
Kuilan's pastor, fellow officers, friends and wife asked the judge for leniency in her sentencing noting the former officer has turned his life around since the accident, working with the church to help others.
The judge also suspended Kuilan's driver's license for three years his release from custody and ordered him to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution to the victims, starting with at least $100 per month per victim, who are also suing him in civil court.
His attorney said they have not decided whether they will appeal.