By Steve Plunkett
Letters of support from Ocean Ridge mayors, neighbors and business acquaintances seeking leniency for Richard Lucibella also exposed a lack of support for the police officers who went to his home and for the subsequent media coverage.
The onetime vice mayor, 65, will spend no time behind bars or under probation for a 2016 backyard altercation with Ocean Ridge police. Instead he paid $675 in court costs.
“Simply put, Rich is a wonderful, kind and good- hearted person. He is deserving of your mercy,” former Mayor Ken Kaleel wrote Circuit Judge Daliah Weiss.
But, Kaleel added, “He has been wrongly vilified by the press and by those who do not know the facts or [are] unwilling to listen. Rich and his family has suffered enough the past few years just by virtue of the travesty of the situation.”
Mayor Steve Coz, who testified that an unimpaired Lucibella did not even finish a “splash of scotch” at a party an hour before the incident, wrote, “I consider the entire arrest and trial of Mr. Lucibella as an uncalled for series of events that already has punished him needlessly for two and a half years.”
Coz’s wife, Valerie Virga, wrote that Lucibella and girlfriend Barbara Ceuleers “have been put through enough punishment and stress already for events that the facts and a jury found did not rise to the level of felonies. And I question whether it even rises to the level of any misdemeanor.”
Added Osprey Drive neighbors Jean and Peter Burling: “We believe as taxpayers that the legal proceeding in your court, and the evening events that led up to it, should have been avoided, and easily could have been had two of the officers present acted in a more professional manner.”
West Palm Beach lawyer Rikki Lober Bagatell, who said she knows Lucibella from his health care business, said “the treatment that he received by the police and the charges that were filed against him were totally disproportionate to what he deserved.”
Not every letter criticized the police and the justice system. Former Mayor Jim Bonfiglio told the judge that Lucibella helped Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico, which he hoped would “shed some light as to Mr. Lucibella’s character.”
Former Mayor Geoff Pugh said he could always count on Lucibella to tell the truth. “Whether or not the truth could be a detriment to himself he never wavered off that fact,” Pugh wrote.