Drunk driver owes $5M in civil suit

Thomas Cypress pleaded guilty to 2 counts of DUI manslaughter in 2010

MIAMI - The brother of the former chairman of the Miccosukee tribe must pay $5 million in punitive damages after he was found liable in a 2009 drunk driving crash that killed a couple from Maryland.

In 2010, Thomas Cypress pleaded guilty to two counts of DUI manslaughter in a plea deal that saw him sentenced to 12 years in prison, which he is currently serving. The charges stemmed from the February 2009 crash near the Miccosukee reservation that killed tourists Robert and Paulette Kirkpatrick. Police said Cypress' blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash was three times the legal limit.

"In terms of the great message and the greater good that can come from this, this is the portion of the trial that mattered the most to us," said Stephen Kirkpatrick, the couple's son. "The more expensive, the greater the consequences for the rest of their life."

"That somebody three times the legal limit shouldn't be driving around in our community," added Kirkpatrick's attorney, Brett Rosen. "That Paulette and Robert Kirkpatrick would not have died in vain and you all set the benchmark for deterring drunk driving in our community."

Cypress' attorney, William Fink, argued his client didn't have any money.

"Can he pay a punitive damage right now? What evidence have you heard on that issue?" asked Fink.

But Rosen said Cypress afforded a well-known defense attorney and experts for his trial.

"They hired that guy. They paid for him. Where is the transparency?" he said.

Jurors previously decided to compensate Kirkpatrick and his sister $15 million each.

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