Race car driver takes plea deal

Joao Paulo Escudero Mauro pleads guilty to driving infraction in Russell Knudson's death


A Brazilian race car driver agreed to a plea deal Monday after police say he hit and killed a pedestrian in Miami Beach last year.

"I just wanted to express my deep condolences to the family and this was a tragedy to me and my family, too," said Joao Paulo Escudero Mauro. "It definitely changed my life."

Escudero Mauro, 21, hit and killed 45-year-old Russell Knudson (pictured, above) at 39th Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach on Jan. 19, 2012, police said. According to the police report, he never hit brakes before crashing.

Police charged Escudero Mauro with DUI manslaughter, noting his bloodshot eyes, an odor of alcohol, and an identification with a fake birthday that made him old enough to drink.

"His demeanor on the scene," said Robert Hernandez with the Miami Beach Police Department. "They suspected on the scene, based on those two things, that he was under the influence, which he was."

But toxicology results didn't show Escudero Mauro's blood alcohol content above Florida's 0.08 legal limit.

"It wasn't that it was lacking, it's just that took a little bit longer for the state to be able to finalize their investigation," said Gus Lage, Escudero Mauro's attorney. "Ultimately, I think they came to the right conclusion with the careless driving."

According to the plea deal, Escudero Mauro pleaded guilty to careless driving resulting in death. His license was suspended for 10 years. He must also complete 100 hours of community service, personally view the crime scene photos, and contribute to Mothers Against Drunk Driving in the amount equivalent to the age Knudson would be turning for the next five years.

"This story will never come to an emotional end to me and my family and that Mr. Russell Knudson and the whole family will forever be part of my daily prayers," said Escudero Mauro.

"Thank you very much. That means a lot," Russell's sister said by phone.

Escudero Mauro said he plans on returning to Brazil when he finishes the terms of his plea agreement.

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