Miami Beach's Biker Vigilante Gets Driver Charged With Felony Assault Thanks To Video UPDATED

Categories: Bike Blog, Crime
bikevideocap1.jpg
via You Tube
A bike-tire camera catches this SUV nearly running Bereski's bike off the road.
A few months back, Riptide wrote about Ken Bereski, an IT consultant who's become the Howard Beale to Miami's cyclists who deal daily with life-threateningly awful drivers. Bereski was mad as hell, so he strapped cameras to his bike and started filming all the dangerous driving.

Well this month, Bereski got results: Thanks to video captured on his bike, he helped prosecutors charge a road-raging SUV pilot with felony assault for allegedly trying to run him off the road. Alas, it seems a less than bike-friendly judge is poised to toss the charges today. Click through for the video to decide for yourself if it shows a crime.


As Bereski tells it, the video was shot in April as he biked south down Alton Road. Near 15th Street, you can see a big black SUV cruise up to inches behind Bereski's back tire before swerving around and honking.

At the next light, Bereski pulls alongside the SUV to ask the driver to be more careful. You can briefly see the man's arm as he jumps out of the car and, according to Bereski, threatens him.

Then, the contentious part of the video: Starting around the 1:15 mark, the SUV again passes Bereski. This time, he says, the driver intentionally swerved into him, coming inches away from slamming into him on purpose.

"Right before that, he was cursing at me in Spanish and assumed a fighting stance," Bereski says. "There's no way in my mind that was not an intentional act of assault."

Bereski flagged down a police officer at the next stoplight. The cop at first told him there wasn't much he could do -- until he heard that Bereski had filmed the whole encounter. "I actually saw his eyes light up," Bereski says.

The police ran the SUV's tags and found its driver, 41-year-old Ernesto Alvarez Perez, was out on bond on a felony credit card forgery charge. (That charge was dropped last month, according to court records).

With the video as evidence, they arrested Perez for felony assault.

The case went to court on Friday, and Bereski says that Judge Jorge Cueto wasn't quite so sure.

"He watched the video and said that the incident was my fault for not riding far enough to the right," Bereski says. "Essentially, he's telling me to ride in the parking lane and swerve in and out of traffic, which is illegal."

The case is back in court this morning, but Bereski says he expects Cueto to drop the felony charge against Perez. He's recruited a handful of other cycling activists to protest Cueto's decision at the 9:30 a.m. hearing.

Bereski also has no intention of turning off his cameras anytime soon. "I told prosecutors that I don't want to send anyone to jail, I just want to make the roads safer," he says. "I would have been happy to see this driver get mandated anger management and safety classes."

Riptide contacted Perez's attorney, Peter Heller, but we haven't heard back yet. We'll update the post when we do.

Here's the video:



Update: The charges were indeed dropped in court this morning, Bereski says. Prosecutors declined to push forward with the case given the judge's opinion that the video doesn't show an assault.

"This is a negative blow to improving road safety in Miami," he says. "The message from this judge is that people can run over cyclists and no one gives a shit. This guy tried to intentionally run me off the road an there were no repercussions."


Update Two: Joseph Vredevelt, a lawyer for Perez, sent Riptide a letter about the case. He called Bereski a "man with a political agenda" who "wasted" $15,000 to prosecute a "frivolous case." Verdevelt also claims the cyclist baits drivers by purposely swerving into their lanes and then confronting them at stop lights. Here's the full letter:

First and foremost, the Court and the State Attorney's Office got it completely right; there was no probable cause for the arrest of Mr. Perez and definitely not enough evidence to meet the State's burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

This was not an assault on all cyclists. The streets of Miami and Miami Beach are safe for bikers; however, if they engage in actions like Mr. Bereski they do increase their likelihood of suffering a needless injury. I say this because it was discovered that Mr. Bereski has been engaged in many, many instances where he has placed himself in danger of being hit by motorists on South Beach in addition to downtown Miami. It can be seen in many of his videos that he impedes traffic and confronts drivers he believes assaulted him. 

In one video that can be seen on Youtube Bereski even waits for a driver to merge into traffic just to dart in front of the driver and then call the driver vulgar names and chase him down Alton Road, disregarding traffic laws and further endangering himself. These actions negate any belief that Bereski may actually have been in fear of his life at the time these incidences occurred, and specifically the case at hand.

As can be seen in the most recent video in this criminal case, Bereski is riding his bike in the middle of the lane violating Florida Statutes for cyclists (he should be as close as practicable to the right side curb), and then travels even further into the lane and confronts the driver who drives around him while at a red light, instigating a confrontation.

It is clear that Bereski is not an innocent cyclist, but a man with a political agenda. Should we have bike lanes on every street, yes, we would agree with that. But Bereksi making a martyr of himself will not make that happen, and getting otherwise innocent drivers put behind bars surely won't. The only thing Bereski has accomplished so far was waste around $15,000 of the State's resources to prosecute this case and house Mr. Perez. $15,000 that could have gone to fund social programs like bike lanes rather than spending it on frivolous claims that only go to further Bereksi's misguided political agenda.

You must understand, aggravated assault is an objective standard in regards to the reasonableness of fear of death or injury, and the court or jury must take into consideration the totality of the circumstances surrounding the incident when making a decision. In this case they would not only need to consider the defendant's actions, but also Mr. Bereski's. The fact that Bereski is traveling well under the speed limit in violation of Florida Statute, the fact that Bereski does not move to the right when room was available and cars were seeking to pass; the fact he chases after the defendant and puts himself in supposed harms way a second time; the fact that he has done this two dozen times before, all go to negate any element of fear. Judge Cueto said it best: as a former police officer he had been stabbed, shot, and run down with an automobile on several occasions; he knows fear of death and serious injury in situations that warrant it, Bereski does not in situations he
creates for himself.

We are satisfied with the outcome and are considering a civil suit to recover the costs of defense and the time and money Perez lost while the he sat in jail needlessly

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18 comments
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Anon
Anon

As a person who was in the courtroom over the three days that Mr. Bereski pleaded with the Judge, I have to say: what a complete waste of judicial resources. What the article doesn't discuss is the HOURS that Judge Cueto dedicated to hear this unreasonable person whine! The State bent over backwards for this seemingly mentally unstable "victim.". I would suggest having a look at the propaganda on Mr. Bereski's Facebook page to get the complete picture of his delusional biased slant.

George
George

Yeah... and what kind of a jackass gets out of a car to start a fight? New judge needs to take another look at this.

Also Anon
Also Anon

What a nasty anonymous creep you are. You must have a personal interest in the SUV driver if you were in the courtroom. Those personal attacks are not civilized.

Michael Marshall
Michael Marshall

So, what's the legal theory on which Atty Vredevelt seeks to recover the defense costs from Berezki? Does FL recognize a cause of action against a criminal complainant where the case is ultimately dismissed prior to trial? I mean, if the DA filed charges in good faith with evidence sufficient for a prima facie case, what's the legal theory that's going to support recovery of those costs?

Miamicyclechic
Miamicyclechic

Is it surprising that Judge Jorge Cueto refused to continue prosecution of Ernesto Alvarez Perez. His comments show he does not understand the law. Ernesto Alvarez Perez: A pillar of the community LMFAO! The average person does not get arrested for Credit Card Fraud. At least he had to pay with his wallet by getting a lawyer. I'm sure that was not cheap. He beat the rap, but didn't beat the ride! LOL

Ajlabora
Ajlabora

The video is not all the evidence there is. What about the witness' testimony? This is not impeding or obstructing traffic. The cyclist is traffic.A motor vehicle is a dangerous instrumentality and it can be used as a weapon. Felony assault is an appropriate charge.

ken
ken

Agreed. According to this article, the film is all they have, but the way I see it, the film corroborates what the witness said, so it's not just a "he said she said" case.

michael wind
michael wind

film police malpractice as a group and send the evidence to the federal government.

Schwinn
Schwinn

It seemed like you were impeding traffic and he made every effort not to hit you. Of course he came close to you because you were almost in the middle of the road and the other lanes were very close together. And then you approach him on his drivers side window and expect him not to get angry or feel threatened. This is Miami dude and if you did that to me my first reaction would be to defend myself and tell you to get lost. So of course he drives off angry the next time around. You seem like an idiot looking for attention. I hope the charges are dropped.

Imagary29
Imagary29

Schwinn, and you are not looking for attention with comments like this? There must be a parrallel universe where SUV's do not have to adhere to the facts that the cyclist was riding where he needed to be in the road. Therefore, in your universe road rage is okee-dokee.  Did you not see the cars prior to and after the SUV pass the cyclist safely? Did you not see that the left lane next to the SUV was empty and would have allowed him to pass the cyclist accordingly? Of course you didn't.....I do not know what you saw, but it was not realistic.

D G
D G

Clearly this guy in the SUV is an a**hole and was in the wrong. 

Yet most of the time I see bicyclists that completely ignore the rules of the road while expecting automobile drivers to be accommodating. See that red light or stop sign? If you are riding on the road it means you too. Hand signals: unless your bicycle has turning signals use them. And for godsakes, if there is a clearly designed, paved, and marked bike path (not a side walk) running parallel to the road USE IT, especially if the main road has only two lanes and is heavily traveled. Cough, OLD CUTLER ROAD, cough, cough.

Imagary29
Imagary29

As for Old Cutler if you are refering to the road bike riders on this road, they cannot use the path since they are usually traveling at 25 to 30mph. Would you walk your child or dog on a multi use path with these guys using it also? of course not. This does not excuse them though from running lights and stops signs.

Imagary29
Imagary29

This judge is not right if he considers dropping the charges on two counts. First MacLeod stated the video does not show enough evidence, which it does. In Florida there is a three foot law and the SUV was clearly not giving 3 foot in both instances of passing the cyclist it was clear. Also, the judge saying the cyclist was not far enough to the right. This is completely incorrect. The cyclist by law is entitled to use as much of a lane as they need to operated thier bicycle safely. By the video you can see the cyclist is just outside the "doorzone" where he needs to be. The other vehicles behind him that passed had no issues with this.

Justin
Justin

well the trouble is the charges being felony assault charges.  I am a cyclist and hate miami drivers more than anyone but c'mon a felony?  had the driver made contact with the bike or if he had driven past at a higher speed then maybe but it it isn't really a felony.  he should be charged for the 3 foot law but not felony assault.

Imagary29
Imagary29

Justin, I would think the charge for the three foot law is in order here. The felony is a bit harder to prove unless they can show the use of the SUV in a aggressive fashion towards the cyclist.

Vernon6
Vernon6

This video illustrates the two ends of the social spectrum in Miami. On one end, you have everything that's wrong represented -  A giant luxury SUV driven recklessly by some macho hothead with a criminal record and threatening anyone is his way. On the other end, you have someone on a bike, genuinely concerned with making the streets safer, interacting with his community and not burning heaps of gasoline into the air. And the judge wants to side with which person? Meanwhile, Spain in instituting laws to suspend the licenses and impound vehicles of drivers what threaten cyclists on the road. Miami needs to get with the rest of the civilized world.

Macleod5000
Macleod5000

not very compelling evidence. maybe with addition of helmet cam and audio he might have a shot at making charges stick. but the rear view cam alone would not convince me if i was a judge

Sol
Sol

Yeah, next time I'm gonna set up my bicycle with a holographic matrix recording device in order to recreate in the court room a 4D real time model of what happened. 

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