MOORE HAVEN -- A Ft. Lauderdale man was found not guilty of DUI/manslaughter charges last week in a case involving simultaneous motorcycle accidents in 2018 on Reservation Road that left two dead and three injured.
Craig Colton was found not guilty of those charges Aug. 12 by a jury after a two-week trial in Glades County.
“It was definitely a contentious three years with the State Attorney’s office battling this case and the end result was the not guilty by a jury … a resounding not guilty,” said Eric Schwartzreich, Colton’s Ft. Lauderdale-based attorney.
Fort Myers Assistant State Attorney Mara Marzano prosecuted the case.
Schwartzreich and two other Schwartzreich & Assoc. attorneys, Anthony Bruno and Sheila Zolnoor, successfully argued in court that not only was Colton not intoxicated at the time of the accident but that the cause of it was due to dangerous road conditions.
“We clearly believe that the evidence demonstrated that first Craig Colton wasn’t impaired and wasn’t at fault,” Schwartzreich said. “If it was an accident it had to do with the dangerous condition of the road.”
Their research into accident histories along that stretch of road showed more than 12 accidents involving fatalities within the past five years, which Schwartzreich argued may have been caused by inadequate chevrons at the site.
“The state was arguing that they were unrelated to each other, and we showed that it wasn’t but that it was a dangerous road,” he said.
Schwartzreich also took issue with the DUI charge, saying instead of immediately getting a breath test for drugs or alcohol, police obtained a warrant for to draw Colton’s blood for testing, taking several hours to do so. The draw was under the legal limit and testimony by medical professionals and a toxicologist in court about what Colton’s blood levels may have been at the time of the crash was inaccurate information at best, he argued.
“In a rush to judgement, sometimes an accident is just an accident and we had to show that,” Schwartzreich said.
According to the FHP report Aug. 4, 2018, four of six motorcyclists traveling south on CR 721 traveled off the roadway while negotiating a left curve, entering a ditch. All were thrown from their motorcycles.
Colton suffered some broken bones and fully recovered from his injuries. Unfortunately, his passenger that day was his fiancé, who was killed at the scene, and a fellow cyclist died from his injuries shortly afterwards while two others were also injured.
“He had to live with this. He was incarcerated in his own mind. He was vindicated but there was a loss of his fiancé that day so it will always be very difficult for him. But he was blamed for this, and it wasn’t his fault,” Schwartzreich said.
If convicted, Colton was facing a 12-year minimum mandatory sentence with up to 15 years in prison.
“It was very stressful, the stakes were very high,” Schwartzreich said, adding that the jury was asked to then consider a lesser offense of a DUI which was rejected.
At the Jan. 15 meeting of the Glades County Board of Commissioners, Glades County Sheriff David Hardin said the Seminole Tribe has asked the speed limit be lowered on all of County Road 721 due to the number of accidents. Seminole Tribe Police have logged speeds in the 90s, he explained.