By Steve Plunkett
Richard Lucibella had his day in court Jan. 31, maintaining his innocence during nearly three hours on the witness stand.
The former vice mayor of Ocean Ridge said he could not act antagonistically toward arresting officer Richard Ermeri and described Ermeri as the aggressor.
“Somebody who has just attacked you, broken your ribs, partially blinded you, knocked you out I believe — I do not believe [that’s me being] antagonistic,” Lucibella testified.
Asked by his lawyer why he pleaded not guilty, Lucibella responded “because I’m not guilty of the two charges, because I’m 65 years old and I’m not going to change my principles.”
Lucibella is charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence, stemming from an Oct. 22, 2016, encounter with police who were investigating reports of hearing gunshots. They confiscated a .40-caliber handgun and found five spent shell casings on the patio.
Lucibella testified that Lt. Steven Wohlfiel, a friend, was visiting him off duty that night and fired his personal gun into the ground after confiding that family members had dire health problems.
“Did I have a chance to stop him? No, it happened very fast,” Lucibella said. “I told him he was out of his mind; he was scaring the dog and scaring the neighbors.”
Lucibella said he did not tell police Wohlfiel pulled the trigger because he feared the lieutenant, who was close to retirement, would lose his pension.
“I scolded him,” Lucibella said.
The defense rested its case about 12:15 p.m. The trial was to continue after lunch with closing statements from both sides.
On Jan. 30, the day before, Steve Coz, then a town commissioner and now mayor, recalled a small neighborhood party the evening of the incident. Lucibella and Wohlfiel came for a short time; neither was intoxicated when they arrived, Coz said. He specifically remembered Lucibella’s drink order.
“When [the hostess] asked Mr. Lucibella if he wanted a drink, he said a splash of scotch,” Coz testified. Lucibella didn’t finish the drink, Coz said, because he wanted to go home before his girlfriend returned from a bridal shower.