MIAMI – A lawyer representing the estate of Jose Fernandez is challenging a state report that found the Miami Marlins pitcher was responsible when he and two others were killed off the coast of Miami Beach in a 2016 boat crash.
Attorney Ralph Fernandez, who is not related to the pitcher, filed a document in Miami-Dade County court this week, claiming that state investigators tampered with evidence to make it appear Jose Fernandez was behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
Ralph Fernandez is representing the estate in two wrongful death lawsuits filed by the families of the two passengers -- Emilio Macias and Eduardo Rivero. Both are seeking $2 million in damages.
"The law enforcement investigation that led to the incident report and the conclusions reached therein was fraught with false statements of fact, implicated practically unheard of destruction of evidence and included references to evidence that never existed," Ralph Fernandez wrote in the document.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's final report said Jose Fernandez was operating the boat when it crashed into a jetty at Government Cut on Sept. 25, 2016. The report found the 32-foot center console boat, named Caught Looking, was traveling at 65 mph when it crashed.
Investigators said Jose Fernandez's DNA was found on the boat's steering wheel and throttle, leading them to conclude Jose Fernandez was operating the boat in "a reckless manner." An autopsy found that Jose Fernandez had been using cocaine and alcohol before the crash.
The 167-page document goes into a great detail into how "inexperienced" FWC employees allegedly mishandled the case.
Ralph Fernandez said in the document that Jose Fernandez had tested positive for cocaine and alcohol use because he and Rivero were "unwitting recipients of a spiked drink or a mickey of sorts." Ralph Fernandez theorized that Jose Fernandez and Rivero were drugged as part of a robbery scheme and that the crash may have been caused by "foul play."
Ralph Fernandez said Jose Fernandez was carrying a backpack with $15,000 in cash to tip Marlins employees. Authorities found the backpack, but did not find any cash.
The attorney said that the fact that investigators did not find any drug paraphernalia or drug residue at the crash site supports his argument that Jose Fernandez and Rivero were drugged without their knowledge.
Ralph Fernandez said the toxicology findings influenced how investigators made their determinations and authorities failed consider that Jose Fernandez may have been drugged against his will.