Nick Bollea will walk out of the Pinellas County Jail on Tuesday 166 days after pleading no contest on a reckless driving charge. But even when his jail sentence is over, he won't be free of the crash that changed his and so many other lives.
Exactly when the 18-year-old will be released is not clear. He is due out sometime Tuesday, and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is making arrangements to prevent the crush of media from shutting down the public entrance to the jail.
Who will meet him at the jail?
Again, that's not clear.
Linda Bollea's publicist, Gary Smith, said her son will go home with her and is looking forward to her home-cooked meals and playing with his dog. He will enroll in a local college immediately to study film, Smith said.
"This has definitely been a learning experience," Smith said. "He's a new person. He's a changed person, wanting to do something productive with his life."
Nick's father, Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hulk Hogan, declined to comment for this article. So did the family of John Graziano, the victim of the August 2007 car crash.
Nick Bollea's imminent release from jail is perhaps a good promontory to look back at the Bollea family saga.
The trouble began Aug. 26, 2007, when Bollea was street racing down Court Street in Clearwater, say witness statements to police. Bollea, then 17, lost control of his sports car and crashed into a tree, severely injuring his friend and passenger, John Graziano, a former Marine who will require extensive, lifelong medical care. Small amounts of alcohol were found in Bollea's blood.
In November 2007, the Bollea family was jolted again by Linda Bollea's decision to file for divorce. That divorce case has fueled almost a year's worth of publicized acrimony with no end in sight.
In March, the guardian for John Graziano sued the Bollea family, threatening to drain its net worth of roughly $32-million for alleged negligence leading up to the car crash.
The last public appearance Nick Bollea had was at his sentencing hearing. May 9, Bollea pleaded no contest to a charge of reckless driving in exchange for a sentence of eight months in jail (reduced to closer to five months for good behavior). There was also a three-year revocation of his driver's license along with other conditions.
All along, almost every aspect of the Bollea family's life has been opened to public scrutiny — and not the soft scrutiny provided by their scripted reality show, Hogan Knows Best.
When Nick Bollea was in solitary confinement, he still was not sheltered from the public eye. The books he read were a matter of public record. So was his daily schedule.
Even the telephone conversations he had with parents — which portrayed him, at times, in an unflattering light — were recorded by the Sheriff's Office and released to the media. (That is the subject of yet another lawsuit, this time on behalf of Bollea claiming the recordings are not public record.)
It won't be easy for Nick Bollea to return to a normal life, but that's what he will attempt to do, Linda Bollea's publicist said.
The court hearings are far from over. George Tragos, an attorney representing John Graziano, said a mediation conference in the car crash lawsuit failed to produce a settlement Thursday. That case is now headed to trial and Nick might soon find himself back in court.
Jonathan Abel can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.