Over the long months since the night everything changed — the weeks in the hospital, the wheelchair, the battle to get back on his feet — a question plagued Mark LoMoglio.
Could the driver who hit him walk away with no punishment at all?
“How are you not guilty?” said LoMoglio, 35.
The Tampa Bay Times recently recounted LoMoglio’s winding trip through the justice system after he was hit by a car while trying to cross a residential street in his Brandon subdivision March 10.
A sports photographer, LoMoglio was walking home that evening after a run and was more than halfway across Cattleman Drive in front of his house. He was thinking he might order Uber Eats and watch a Marvel movie with his teenage daughter. He never saw the white Toyota coming.
It was not an unfamiliar scenario in a state ranked the deadliest place to walk in America.
They didn’t know each other, but driver Daniel E. Morales, 23, lived blocks away on Cattleman. Morales would tell a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy he was going 35 to 40 mph on the posted 25 mph street on his way back to work. Morales “looked at his phone for a text he had received,” the report said, and when he looked up and saw the man in front of him, it was “too late.”
LoMoglio, who made his living taking pictures of college football, the Rays, Buccaneers, Lightning and Tarpons, had two broken ankles, a broken hand and shinbone and a damaged knee. He would stay at Tampa General Hospital, where doctors put in screws, plates and a rod, for more than three weeks. He went home in a wheelchair.
LoMoglio couldn’t understand why Morales’ $163 ticket for careless driving didn’t reflect the extent of his injuries. Ultimately a new citation was issued, adding “serious bodily injury,” which meant a potential $500 fine.
At a court hearing, a defense lawyer argued there was a flaw in the ticket itself, and Hillsborough County Judge Margaret Taylor agreed to dismiss the case. But the dismissal was later set aside, with no explanation available in court records.
On Dec. 9, LoMoglio arrived 45 minutes early for the trial in traffic court. He found himself seated one person away from Morales. Defense attorney Rick Silverman argued that there was a technical issue with the ticket, but Senior Judge James Dominguez didn’t agree.
LoMoglio was called before the judge. Shaking a little, he told his story, listing his injuries and, when asked, pointing to the person who hit him. He heard the judge say “guilty.” Morales got a $500 fine and his license revoked for three months — the mandatory sentence.
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“TODAY I GET A WIN!!!!” LoMoglio told friends on Facebook as he sat in the courthouse parking garage. “And a little bit of justice...”
Morales could not be reached for comment, but Silverman, his attorney, said Morales “was very regretful, and felt terrible.”
“And I know he only wishes that the individual that was hurt can go on with his life with as little difficulty as possible,” Silverman said.
LoMoglio, who photographed the start of the Lightning playoffs from a wheelchair, is on his feet and at about 50 percent, he said. He’s looking into a civil lawsuit for medical bills and damages.
“I feel like I relive it every day,” LoMoglio said. “I’ll go somewhere and think ‘I got hit by a car. I really got hit by a car.’ ”