Following a more than two month investigation by police, Nick Bollea -- the 17-year-old son of wrestling star Terrence "Hulk Hogan" Bollea -- was arrested Wednesday morning on four charges, including reckless driving involving serious bodily injury, the St. Petersburg Timesreported.
Nick turned himself in to Clearwater police, was handcuffed, and accompanied by two officers to the Pinellas County Jail, where he was subsequently released after posting $10,000 bail, the Times reported. Neither Nick or his parents, who picked him up from the prison, spoke to reporters outside the jail.
"I believe what you are going to see was that this was an accident," Nick's lawyer Morris "Sandy" Weinberg Jr. told reporters. Nick had previously told medical personnel he crashed because he "lost control" of the vehicle "due to a wet, rainy road," according to the Times.
Nick was driving a 1998 Toyota Supra -- which is owned by his father -- around 7:30PM on August 26 in Clearwater, FL when he lost control and hit a raised median, spinning the vehicle and causing its rear end to strike a palm tree. Police allege Nick was driving 60MPH at the time of the crash in a stretch of road with a 40MPH speed limit, and several witnesses have also claimed Nick was street racing and speeding prior to the crash.
While Nick was released from Bayfront Medical Center the day following the crash, his front-seat passenger -- 22-year-old U.S. Marine John Graziano -- spent several weeks in critical condition in a medically-induced coma. Graziano suffered a broken skull and is expected to require lifelong care that will probably require he spend the remainder of his life in a nursing home.
"Nick and the entire Hogan-Bollea family are saddened that criminal charges have been filed... Nick will meet and answer these charges in the appropriate arena -- a court of law," Nick's defense attorneys Weinberg Jr. and Kevin Hayslett said in a statement, according to the Times. "The family's primary focus and concern still remains for the continued recovery of Nick's longtime friend, John Graziano. The Bolleas will also continue to stand by the Graziano family and help them in any way they can."
The reckless driving with serious bodily injury charge Nick is facing is a third-degree felony, according to the Times, and is punishable by up to five years in prison.
According to a 10-page sworn statement from Clearwater police investigator Todd Turpack obtained by the Times, Nick's "ethanol serum level" was 0.055% approximately two hours after the crash. Because the blood-alcohol level at which Florida law presumes a driver to be impaired is 0.08%, Nick has also been charged with using a motor vehicle in commission of a felony; being a driver under 21 operating a vehicle with a breath-alcohol level of 0.02% or higher; and having illegal window tinting.
Turpack's statement claims prior to the crash Nick and Graziano spent the afternoon with the elder Hogan on a boat outside Shepard's Tiki Bar, a waterfront bar, before venturing to Three Rooker Island and returning to Shepard's.
Gerri Shepard -- manager of the Clearwater Beach resort that includes the bar -- had previously told the Times that Nick and a friend attempted to enter the tiki bar but were refused entrance because they lacked proper identification. In addition, Nick's friend Barrett Lawrence told police he witnessed Nick drinking on the boat but was unsure if it was alcohol.
Turpack's statement goes onto say that the group returned to Nick's home before deciding to dine at a local steak house. Nick and Graziano took the Supra while two other friends -- Lawrence and Daniel A. Jacobs -- hopped into a silver Dodge Viper with Daniel behind the wheel.
A total of eight witnesses told police they saw the Viper and Supra racing through downtown Clearwater and revving their engines moments before the crash occurred, according to Turpack's statement.
Witness Denise Cirella told police the two vehicles "tore off" after being stopped at a red light; fellow witness Rabih Cheaib claimed he saw both vehicles "accelerating hard" and estimated their speeds at more than 60MPH; and third witness Despina Sibley said the two vehicle seemed to be playing "cat and mouse," according to Turpack's statement.
Sibley indicated after a few moments, both vehicles began to accelerate at a high rate of speed, and the silver car passed the yellow car very rapidly," Turpack wrote in his statement. She additionally told police that the back of the Supra then began to fishtail and said it's possible the vehicle's front-right tire hit the right curb, causing it to spin, jump the median and strike the tree.
Nick isn't the only one facing charges stemming from the crash. Clearwater Police have also issued 22-year-old Daniel Jacobs -- the Viper's driver -- a summons to appear in court on charges of reckless driving. Jacobs told police he was driving "not more than 70MPH, at max" and admitted to drinking two beers on the boat as well as a 32-ounce rum runner at Shepard's, according to the Times.
In addition, while police allege Jacobs and Nick were racing prior to the crash, Jacobs was not the "direct cause" of it, the Times reported.
Weinberg Jr. and Hayslett released a four-paragraph media statement after Hogan's charging:
"Nick and the entire Hogan-Bollea family are saddened that criminal charges have been filed in regards to the tragic single-car accident on Aug. 26, 2007. Nick will meet and answer these charges in the appropriate arena -- a court of law. The family's primary focus and concern still remains for the continued recovery of Nick's longtime friend, John Graziano. The Bolleas will also continue to stand by the Graziano family and help them in any way they can."
"The tragedy to both families is compounded by the fact that unfortunately, John was not wearing a seat belt. Thankfully, Nick was wearing his. Because of what happened to John, the entire Bollea family will make it a priority to increase public awareness of the importance of always wearing your seat belt."
"There has been much speculation as to the speed and the wet road conditions surrounding this accident. Although all the evidence has not been evaluated, preliminary reports from the experts indicate this was not, in fact, a high-speed accident."
"Because Nick is still a juvenile and has no prior criminal record, we are disappointed that we are being charged as an adult offender. However, we are confident that the evidence will demonstrate that this was an accident. We ask all who follow these events to keep and open mind as to the facts until they have been ultimately determined. Finally, we thank all who have prayed for John's recovery and ask for your continued support and prayers."
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