LARGO — Nicholas Bollea, son of professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, was granted early release from the five-year probation sentence that resulted from a 2007 accident that severely injured his friend John Graziano.
Bollea did not attend the court hearing on Friday morning, but spoke by telephone to attorney Kevin Hayslett just afterward.
Hayslett said Bollea was "elated to be off probation," but that "John Graziano continues to be in his thoughts."
Bollea's attorney said his client had worked hard at performing 600 hours of community service and has stayed free of trouble, living his life "under the radar and out of TMZ's crosshairs."
Hayslett said he has known Bollea since before the accident, and can see that he has done a lot of maturing since then.
During the hearing, Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser objected to letting Bollea, 21, out of the probation sentence after having served roughly 80 percent of it.
But Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip Federico said defendants typically are released from probation after half of their sentence as long as they have completed all their requirements.
Federico said he is known as being one of the toughest judges on probation violators. But in this case, he said he could not see a reason to depart from the usual court system practice.
"If I don't grant it now, I would be treating him differently from everybody else," Federico said.
Asked for a reaction, George Tragos, the lawyer for John Graziano's mother, said, "As her attorney, I am stating that it is typical of the Bollea family to plan something like this around one of the worst tragedies of Debra Graziano's life, the death of her son Mike."
Debra's younger son, Michael Graziano, 23, died in a separate car crash last month. He was a passenger in a Volvo that crashed into the back of a dump truck at 3 a.m. April 3 at Ulmerton Road and 66th Street.
Five years earlier, Debra's older son, John, was riding in a car with Bollea when it jumped a curb and plowed into a palm tree. Graziano was not wearing a seat belt.
Bollea was seen racing against a Dodge Viper moments before the crash.
Graziano was left in a minimally conscious state. He spent two years receiving treatment at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa before he was released to his family in 2009.
Bollea pleaded no contest in 2008 to reckless driving with serious bodily injury, and judgment was withheld, meaning he would not be a felon if he successfully completed all of the terms of his sentence.
The sentence included eight months in the Pinellas County Jail plus five years of probation, 500 hours of community service and court costs. Federico also said Bollea's driver's license should be revoked for three years.