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Brian Katacinski was due for some karma. And last Dec. 7, shortly after leaving the Hideaway, it found him.
While he was cruising east on Bee Ridge Road, a 53-year-old Sarasota woman named Cynthia Byler was up ahead, heading west and planning on making a left. As she made the turn onto Worchester Road, her Toyota and Katacinski's Geo collided. The impact sent Byler's car into a Ford pickup, which had been stopped at the intersection.
It was 8:42 p.m. Within a minute, Sarasota County Sheriff's Deputy William Miller was on the scene. Witnesses pointed to Katacinski, who had climbed out of the car and was walking down the sidewalk along Bee Ridge Road, back the way he'd came. Miller yelled to Katacinski to stop. But he just walked faster. When Katacinski turned to head toward the rear of a building, Miller followed him. The officer didn't have to go far. His way blocked by bushes and shrubs, Katacinski tried to return to the sidewalk, but was finally stopped.
Katacinski seemed confused, the deputy would write later; his eyes were red and watery. Miller wrote that he "could distinctly smell an odor of an alcoholic beverage on defendant's breath."
Katacinski was caught, dead to rights. Complaining of whiplash, he was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital for X-rays. Miller wanted him to take a blood alcohol test. At first, Katacinski refused, then agreed, and then questioned the officer about having a lawyer present. The waffling was an obvious stalling tactic. No doubt Katacinski knew that with each passing minute, he was sobering up. (Although he ultimately refused the blood alcohol test, a PBT test -- essentially, a Breathalyzer -- conducted by the hospital showed a level of .064. But that reading, according to Miller's report, came "well after the crash.")
A DUI charge, however, was fast becoming the least of Katacinski's concerns. Miller had found out that the Geo was not registered to Katacinski. In fact, the car had been stolen, and now Katacinski started explaining more about the generous dark-haired construction worker. Miller didn't bite.
As Saturday turned into Sunday, Katacinski was facing a whole mess of trouble: DUI, for refusing the blood alcohol test; leaving the scene of a crash; felony theft of a motor vehicle; and felony possession of stolen property (in this case, the Geo).
A bad night. Particularly bad if, say, you already have a colorful history with Florida law enforcement. Fortunately for Brian Gregory Katacinski, he had a trump card: a driver's license with my name on it.
Marooned at home, my license suspended, I took to the phones. It wasn't a clerical error, I found out -- at least not on Georgia's part. The citation clearly had my name, my driver's license number, my date of birth.
Then I remembered.
A year ago, in October 2001, I had gone to Asheville, N.C., for the weekend. Back in Atlanta, I noticed my driver's license was missing. I don't carry a wallet, so I figured that the license had fallen out of my pocket somewhere. Someone would find it and mail it back to me.
So I didn't report it stolen, or even lost. Instead, I waited a few months, using my temporary license -- which was long expired -- as my ID. It wasn't until I was ticketed at a roadblock that I found the motivation to line up with the rest of the dawn patrol at a driver's license testing facility on Moreland Avenue and get a new one. By then, I had figured my lost license was just that -- hopelessly and forever lost.
But now my license seemed to have turned up in the hands of a stranger, one whose sole occupation appeared to be that of professional loser. From the Sarasota County court clerk's office, I heard a list of the crimes committed under my name in 2001: felony trespass, DUI, grand theft auto. It sounded like they were all charges stemming from the one case.
But then the clerk said, "We also have you down for petty theft in 1997. And forgery in 1993."
My theory that my lost license from a year ago had ended up in this guy's hands was starting to crumble. It seems he had co-opted my identity years ago, and I was only now finding out.
Thus, I was introduced to Brian Gregory Katacinski -- aka Greg Green, aka Brian Gregory, aka Albert Keyser, aka Stephen Fennessy. On that December night a year ago, it was simply my turn. Katacinski turned over the driver's license in his pocket to Deputy Miller.
This is a critical point in the story. What I found out later was this: On Nov. 29, 2001, just two weeks before the accident on Bee Ridge Road, someone walked into the driver's license facility in Valdosta, Ga., and walked out with a license that, in every way but one, was an exact duplicate of the one I'd lost. Same name, birth date, ID number. Same weight. Same picture even. The only difference? A new address. That new license showed that I no longer lived in Atlanta, but on Gornto Road in Valdosta.
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