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PLANTATION KEY, June 12, 2019 – A Tavernier man who severely injured a Key Largo motorcyclist by running him down while driving drunk on U.S. 1 last year has been sentenced to eight years in Florida State Prison.
At sentencing, Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia noted that Greg Pope, 48, had two previous arrests for driving under the influence. “Those two incidents, Mr. Pope, were your warning signs” of being a potential danger to the community, the judge said.
Police were alerted to Pope before the crash, which happened around 10:30 a.m. October 15, 2018, a Monday morning, as a caller to 911 told a dispatcher a Volkswagen Passat “was driving at a high rate of speed and was all over the road running vehicles off the road” in the Upper Keys. Sheriff’s Office deputies and the Florida Highway Patrol responded but Pope crashed before they could stop him.
Pope was recklessly driving the Passat south on U.S. 1 at mile marker 105 in Key Largo. He was observed by witnesses and deputies operating his vehicle at speeds in excess of 75 mph in a 45 mph zone and forcing cars off the road with his erratic operation. Pope continued southbound, increasing his speed, and before deputies could catch up to him he collided with a Ford Explorer at approximately 98 mph.
Continuing southbound, 2.97 seconds later, Pope crashed into a Harley Davidson motorcycle operated by Phillip Weydener Jr., then 54. Due to the speed and severity of the impact, Weydener suffered injuries so severe that he was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.
Pope’s blood alcohol content taken from a blood sample that morning after the crash was 0.33 percent. In Florida, .08 percent is considered legally drunk. By his own testimony in court, he apparently drank a bottle of vodka while driving from his mother’s house in West Palm Beach to the Keys the morning of the crash.
Pope entered a plea of no contest to DUI-serious bodily injury and reckless driving-serious bodily injury, both felonies; as well as to five counts of misdemeanor DUI-property damage for other vehicles receiving collateral damage between Pope hitting the Explorer and hitting the Harley-Davidson. He was given five years in Florida State Prison for the charge of DUI-serious bodily injury followed by three consecutive years for the charge of reckless driving-serious bodily injury. Assistant State Attorney Luke Bovill represented the state.
In court, Weydener described some of the injuries he sustained in the crash: Fractured skull, fractured right leg, fractured right foot, numerous abrasions, subdermal hematoma (blood collecting inside his skull). “They had to do brain surgery on me to relieve the bleeding in my brain,” he said. He also has had cosmetic surgeries and surgery for nerve damage.
“Recovery has been painful and difficult,” Weydener said. He can no longer go scuba diving because of the pressure to his brain and his days as a private pilot are over due to his injuries. “That’s another thing [Pope] took away from me.”
“One day [Pope is] going to get out of prison,” Weydener said. “I’m going to have problems the rest of my life.”
Assistant Public Defender Matt Matteliano sought a minimal sentence for Pope, calling the crash an “isolated incident in an unsophisticated manner.” But Bovill countered that “this was not an isolated incident, Judge,” noting Pope’s 2012 and 2013 arrests for DUI (in one case he pleaded no contest to DUI and in the other pleaded no contest to reckless driving).
“This isn’t his first offense, and that’s a big deal,” Bovill said. “He’s somebody who represented a danger to our community.”
“I have a tremendous amount of guilt and remorse about this,” Pope told the court. Speaking to Weydener, he said, “ ‘I’m sorry’ is not going to cut it, so I won’t insult you with that.”
Pope will be on probation for seven years following his release from prison, during which time he must wear an ankle bracelet that records the presence of alcohol if it’s consumed, and he must enter a residential treatment program. Pope’s driver’s license was revoked for 10 years and he must pay restitution for Weydener’s medical bills.