By Steve Plunkett
As his trial date nears on felony charges stemming from a 2016 shooting incident at his house, onetime Vice Mayor Richard Lucibella proclaimed his innocence and renewed his attacks on how Ocean Ridge police treated him.
“I look forward to a public airing of the facts, including the fact that I was not intoxicated, never fired a weapon and never assaulted either of the two able-bodied officers who broke three of my ribs AFTER slamming me, face-first, into the pavement,” Lucibella said in a written statement to The Coastal Star.
He and his defense attorney, Marc Shiner, went to court July 20 to renew Lucibella’s demand for a speedy trial, which they originally filed in March. The case was docketed for a calendar call Aug. 20.
“OK, so a demand for speedy trial was filed, this case is already set for trial, I believe it’s set within the window,” said Circuit Judge Daliah Weiss, who left the Aug. 20 court date as set.
Lucibella is charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence, both felonies, and firing a weapon while under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanor. He has pleaded not guilty.
After the hearing, Shiner said he refiled the demand for speedy trial to ensure that Weiss knew the timeline of the case. Judges at a calendar call hear the cases of people who are in jail first, then move to the oldest cases, he explained.
He said the trial might not begin for a week or two after the calendar call. “Nothing’s certain in the courthouse,” Shiner said.
Lucibella was arrested Oct. 22, 2016, after Ocean Ridge police went to his oceanfront home to answer neighbors’ reports of hearing gunfire. They confiscated a .40-caliber handgun and found five spent shell casings on the backyard patio.
He and a police supervisor, Lt. Steven Wohlfiel, were both on the patio and “obviously intoxicated,” the officers said. Both men denied firing the gun. Officers later determined the seized gun was Wohlfiel’s.
Lucibella resigned his vice mayor and town commissioner positions Dec. 7, 2016.
His trial was first scheduled for April 2017 but was postponed to July 2017, then October, then this April and now August after Shiner and Assistant State Attorney Danielle Grundt needed more time to question witnesses and then Shiner hurt his leg. Weiss is the third judge on the case, following routine reassignments of Judges Charles Burton and Meenu Sasser.
“These charges were leveled, and then doubled, in an effort to hide the abuses of power by these officers and their Chief,” Lucibella said in his statement. “I look forward to demonstrating that the Chief of Police involved himself in this investigation after admitting he’d been drinking so heavily that night, his wife had to drive him to the police station.”
The State Attorney’s Office declined to comment on Lucibella’s remarks.
Chief Hal Hutchins said Lucibella’s statements mostly repeated claims he and Shiner have made all along.
“They’re entitled to say whatever they like,” Hutchins said. “We should let the criminal justice system do its job.”
Early on, the chief said he had some wine with dinner that Friday night and had his wife drive to avoid even a suggestion of DUI.
Nubia Plesnik, one of the arresting officers, is privately suing Lucibella over injuries she says were a result of the incident.