ALL EYES, CAMERAS ON RICK SANCHEZ AS CH. 7 ANCHOR ENTERS DUI PLEA
DON VAN NATTA Jr. Herald Staff Writer
The cameramen were lined up like a firing squad in Dade traffic court Thursday to aim their lenses at television anchorman Rick Sanchez. "State of Florida versus Ricardo Sanchez," a court clerk announced at 11:37 a.m.
At that moment, a hush fell over the jammed courtroom as WSVN-Channel 7's top-rated anchor strode to the bench to plead no contest to charges of driving while intoxicated on Dec. 10, 1990, after leaving Joe Robbie Stadium.
Every head turned to get a glimpse of the celebrity defendant. The only sound was the whir of the cameras from every Miami TV station -- except Channel 7.
Sanchez seemed edgy as he stood before the judge. First he jammed his hands in his pockets and then he folded his arms.
Finally, Sanchez picked up his 14-month-old son, Ricky, who toyed with Dad's ballpoint pen. Meanwhile, Sanchez's lawyer, Jonathan Blecher, asked the judge for permission to withdraw
from the case.
"We do not believe it is in Mr. Sanchez's best interest to enter a plea of no contest here today," said Blecher, an attorney for Essen & Essen, one of America's top DUI defense law firms. "We are confident he would prevail at trial."
Circuit Judge Marc Schumacher granted Blecher's motion to withdraw. Sanchez's new lawyer, Allan Milledge, then introduced
himself to the court. Milledge represents Channel 7.
"My attorneys disagree with my decision. But my Dad told me when we were growing up to always take responsibility for my actions. I'm going to take my Dad's advice, and I'm willing to take the consequences for this."
Carr, the prosecutor, had offered Sanchez a plea bargain in March. But the anchorman decided to take the deal only after Schumacher denied a defense motion to throw out the results of his blood-alcohol test.
"If it is a sincere plea of no contest that is motivated by a feeling of responsibility or a feeling of guilt, it usually comes shortly after the incident itself," Carr said.
"However, in this case, the defendant's no contest plea came after 11 months of media posturing and after all his pretrial motions were denied. He was worried that a guilty verdict after a trial meant a jail sentence."
If convicted, Sanchez faced a maximum of six months in the Dade County Jail.
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