Judge: MMA fighter's hands, feet are 'deadly weapons'

Fighter arrested in alleged road rage incident

Published On: Mar 06 2012 12:44:17 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 06 2012 11:06:18 PM EST
Fernando Rodrigues
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -

An Iraq war veteran and mixed martial arts trainer is now facing possible life in prison after two men say he "flipped out" and attacked them in a road rage incident.

Prosecutors said given Fernando Rodrigues's specialized training, his hands and feet should be considered weapons. The bond court judge agreed, denying him bond on two counts and explaining to Rodrigues's attorney how the counts "are first-degree felonies punishable by life."

Rodrigues, 33, is accused of hitting one man over the head with his gun and beating up the second.

One of the alleged victims, Michael Caccavella, told Local 10 it was because he didn't hit the gas fast enough when a light turned green.

"He probably has more steroids in him than half the cattle in Texas," said Caccavella of Rodrigues.

Caccavella said Rodrigues cracked him across the head with a loaded handgun before fracturing the bones of his friend Juan David Uribe's eye socket with several jabs to the face.

Coral Springs police said it happened Monday in the 500 block of State Road 7.

Caccavella said he cleans pools for a living. He had just left a job with his friend's son, Uribe, 25, when his cellphone rang while at a red light. He looked down to see who it was as the light turned green, and the driver behind him got really frustrated, he said.

Caccavella said Rodrigues was honking at him and tailgating him. Caccavella then pulled over to let him pass. Shortly after that, he said, Rodrigues walked up to his car and pointed a gun in his face.

"It had a flashlight and laser on it," Caccavella said.

Caccavella said Rodrigues started screaming about how he was a Marine and served in Iraq.

As Caccavella pondered getting out his own gun, he said, Rodrigues walked away. Caccavella said he got Rodrigues's licensed plate number and called 911.

But, while Caccavella was talking to a dispatcher, he said, Rodrigues returned. Caccavella said he thought again about getting out his own gun, but, "I think maybe he is coming back to apologize, and I don't want to shoot someone who just wants to say he's sorry."

Rodrigues pulled out his gun again and hit Caccavella in the head, Caccavella said. He said his nose was dislocated.

"There was blood gushing everywhere -- on the steering wheel, the seat, the windshield," Caccavella said.

Caccavella said he told Uribe to run.

"I'm 54. He's 25. I figured if I was going to get shot, at least I've lived my life," Caccavella said. "The craziest things go on in your head in a situation like that. I wanted him to live. He's just 25."

After Uribe ran from the pickup truck, Caccavella said, Rodrigues started beating Uribe up.

Caccavella said he grabbed his gun.

"I thought, 'I have to do what I have to do,'" Caccavella said.

But, at that moment, police officers arrived and arrested Rodrigues.

Rodrigues is charged with seven counts. Judge John Hurley said Rodrigues is looking at "two counts of burglary, three counts of aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault."

For two of the counts, Hurley denied bond, saying, "The court believes at this time that your hands and feet are considered, for probable cause, to be deadly weapons."

The bond total for the other five counts came out to $40,000.

Hurley read part of Rodrigues's arrest form aloud: "He's a mixed martial arts competitor. He's an expert in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jujitsu. He's also the president and co-founder of a mixed martial arts training facility."

Assistant State Attorney Eric Linder said the facility Rodrigues owns, American Top Team, is one of the best mixed martial arts training facilities in the world.

Rodrigues's attorney, Brittany Nicolli, tried to argue that his hands and feet should not be considered a deadly weapon.

"They said he just struck them in the face, so even if you were a specific special martial arts instructor, I don't see how that could possibly cause deadly injury to someone just by striking you in the face," Nicolli said.

"With this specialized training, essentially, your hands and feet are weapons," Linder countered.

There was a question on case law when it comes to this issue, and the judge briefly tried to look up the statute and its interpretations. For now, he sided with prosecutors.

"I've always thought that if you are a black belt in karate or you are a expert in martial arts, that your hands and feet would be considered weapons. That's what I've always thought since I was an attorney," Hurley said.

Nicolli asked the judge to consider house arrest or possibly a higher bond instead of his ruling of no bond on two of the counts. She told the court that Rodrigues "has been a U.S. citizen for 11 years. He has no priors, and he's a three-time Iraqi war veteran."

The judge denied her request and told Rodrigues, "Sir, your attorney did a good job, but frankly she had an uphill battle today, and it's the best any attorney could do."

According to the American Top Team's website, Rodrigues is a Marine who "attended The Citadel Military College, Echo Company Class of 2005" and served two tours in Iraq.