Lawyer: Charges possible for both drivers in fiery crash

Reporter: Corey Lazar
Published: Updated:

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – The man who officers said caused a fiery crash on Northeast Pine Island Road near Hancock Creek Boulevard could face DUI manslaughter charges.

But the other driver could be charged, too, according to a local defense lawyer.

Michael Getts, 35, was driving a maroon Kia when he tried to change lanes and smashed into 19-year-old Francis Paulette’s white van on April 11 shortly after 11 p.m.

Both drivers had alcohol levels twice the legal limit, according to Cape Coral police, and now Gett’s passenger, Lonnie William Retherford, 36, is dead.

While police blame Getts for the wreck, defense attorney Lance Dunford said both drivers could be facing at least one criminal charge.

“Both of them in this situation could be looking at a simple DUI charge — at least a DUI with damage,” Dunford said.

But because both drivers were under the influence of alcohol, a defense lawyer could have a strong case on Getts’ behalf by arguing that Paulette could have avoided the crash, Dunford said.

“You have two people operating a motor vehicle and have actual physical control of a motor vehicle, to an extent that their normal faculties were impaired from alcohol, both have blood alcohol level over .08,” Dunford said.

Paulette’s lawyers intend to defend him, saying he is a victim. They are investigating the incident.

“We are looking for witnesses with information about the whereabouts and conduct of all parties during the hours prior to the crash,” lawyers said.

Retherford died two days after the wreck. He, Getts and Paulette were saved by a man who pulled them from the flames.

Getts is in critical condition and Paulette is recovering from a coma at Lee Memorial Hospital.

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