Jose Fernandez, Marlins ace killed in crash, was framed in investigation, attorney says

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez stands in the dugout before the start of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Miami in June 2015. [Associated Press]
Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez stands in the dugout before the start of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Miami in June 2015. [Associated Press]
Published April 4, 2018

The attorney for Jose Fernandez's estate contends the former Miami Marlins pitching ace was framed in the state investigation that found him responsible for the 2016 boating accident that killed him and two others.

Attorney Ralph Fernandez, who is not related to the pitcher, on Monday filed a 167-page document in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging the lead investigators at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the law-enforcement agency that investigated the accident, erroneously concluded that Fernandez was at fault when his 32-foot Sea Vee, Kaught Looking, at crashed into the jetty off Government Cut on about 3 a.m. on Sept. 25, 2016.

The accident killed Fernandez, 24, a Cuban-born star pitcher with the Marlins, and his two passengers: Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25. All three had been drinking at American Social, a trendy bar on the Miami River, prior to the crash, the FWC report found. The families of Macias and Rivero are suing Fernandez's estate for $2 million each.

Ralph Fernandez, in the court papers, alleged the FWC's investigation "was fraught with false statements of fact, implicated practically unheard of destruction of evidence and included references to evidence that never existed."

RELATED: Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez had alcohol, cocaine before crashing his boat

Throughout the court papers, which describe the scene and the condition of the men's bodies in gory detail, the attorney contends Jose Fernandez was not behind the wheel that night. He lays outs what he considers to be all of the commission's missteps, citing an investigation riddled with "lack of experience, inability to answer simple questions, poor investigative direction, and sloppy work."

"From the inception the case agents decided that José Fernandez was the operator and that his blood alcohol level would support the imaginary charges sufficiently so they intentionally failed to consider any evidence provided to them that José Fernandez and Eduardo Rivero were the victims of foul play, the two of them unwitting recipients of a spiked drink or a mickey of sorts,'' Fernandez says in the court filing, a response to the plaintiffs' motion to disqualify him from the case.

RELATED: Friends, family in Tampa Bay recall Jose Fernandez's joy, friendliness

The FWC report said Fernandez had a blood alcohol level of 0.167 — twice the legal limit — and that he was drunk, on cocaine and speeding. Fernandez said in the court filings that Fernandez had a blood alcohol level of 0.147 — still above the 0.08 percent legal limit.

FWC spokesman Robert Klepper said Tuesday night the agency had no comment.

Had Fernandez lived, he would most likely have been charged with several crimes, including manslaughter, according to the FWC's final report, which found Fernandez's boat was traveling at more than 65 miles per hour at the time of the crash, the vessel's top speed.

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RELATED: Remembering Jose Fernandez and the All-Star Game that would have been

Ralph Fernandez suggests in his filing that someone could have drugged Fernandez at the bar to steal from him. He points to $15,000 that was in Fernandez's backpack when he was the bar. According to the court papers, the backpack was found at the scene. "Marked" baseballs were still inside it, too.

"The only thing not recovered was the cash," Fernandez wrote in the filing, suggesting "the missing $15,000 was evidence of involuntary ingestion of cocaine as part of a plot by someone trying to steal the money.''

In the filing, Fernandez points to a deposition of Lt. Michael Haney with the FWC, who said he was aware of the missing $15,000 but did not write it up in his report. He said by the time the agency got the backpack, the money was gone.

RELATED: Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez memorialized at Alonso High in Tampa, where he played

The attorney wrote that the FWC never took the possibility of "involuntary ingestion" of cocaine seriously despite the fact that there were no signs of drugs at the scene.

He also noted the three bodies were washed prior to being brought to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office — which Fernandez says can be constituted as destruction of evidence. Dr. Kenneth Hutchins, the Miami-Dade medical examiner, said in a deposition cited in the court filing that in the more than 500 homicide cases that he has handled, police had never washed the body prior to the medical examiner's office conducting its investigation.

The attorney also claimed the FWC gave preferential treatment to Macias because his father works for Miami-Dade police and questioned that there was no testimony from the divers that reported to the scene.

"Like a house of cards," Fernandez wrote, "this whole case is compromised."

When asked about the case Tuesday night, Fernandez declined to elaborate, saying "the facts speak for themselves.''