Nick Bollea, the son of famous wrestler Hulk Hogan, is expected to make an open plea in court tomorrow for his role in an August car crash that critically injured his passenger.
Bollea, 17, initially pleaded not guilty to a charge of reckless driving with serious bodily injury. But Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser said he expects Bollea to offer an open plea to the court during a 1: 30 p.m. pre-trial hearing tomorrow. After that, Circuit Judge Philip Federico will hold a sentencing hearing.
Nick Bollea and his mother, Linda, were seen leaving the office of his attorney, J. Kevin Hayslett, around 5 p.m. Hayslett said he was too busy working on the case to speak to reporters.
"We're going to keep rolling," Hayslett said. "We've got a lot of work to do. No comment."
Lawyers for both sides will be able to call witnesses during the sentencing hearing. Rosenwasser said the mother and father of John Graziano, the former Marine who was injured in the crash, will make statements.
"We're just going to tell the judge everything," Rosenwasser said. "The facts will speak for themselves."
Bollea could receive as little as probation or as much as five years in prison, Rosenwasser said. In an open plea, defendants essentially throw themselves on the mercy of the court.
Clearwater-based criminal defense attorney John Trevena, who is not connected with the case, said Bollea's decision is "somewhat unusual and extremely risky."
He said an open plea is a gamble because there is no negotiation between defense attorneys and prosecutors before going in front of the judge.
"You're throwing yourself on the mercy of the court, hoping the judge gives you a minimal sentence but there's no guarantee. You could get the maximum."
Trevena, who has been following the case, said he doesn't expect leniency from the court. He said Bollea's attorneys have "nothing to lose to try to dismantle the case first (before accepting an open plea)."
Bollea was driving a yellow Toyota Supra on Court Street in Clearwater the night of Aug. 26 when he lost control and smashed into a palm tree. Graziano, who wasn't wearing a seatbelt, was seriously injured and has been in a hospital since the crash. Doctors say he may need lifelong care.
Witnesses to the crash say Bollea was racing with the driver of a silver Viper, Danny Jacobs, who was also charged.
The event is already becoming a media circus. Assistants from Hayslett's Belcher Road office passed out Good Humor ice cream bars to the reporters gathered outside. The offerings: vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate or Creamsicles.