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Lorry driver accused of killing Davide Rebellin requests plea bargain, in bid to halve proposed prison sentence to three years

The Italian pro’s family is firmly opposed to the deal, citing Wolfgang Rieke’s previous hit-and-run and drink driving offences

The German lorry driver accused of hitting and killing retired pro cyclist Davide Rebellin in Italy late last year, before fleeing the scene, has requested a plea deal which could see his prison sentence more than halved.

The lawyer representing Wolfgang Rieke, who was extradited to Italy in July and is currently being detained in Vicenza, has requested a reduced prison sentence of three years, down from six-and-a-half, for the lorry driver, who is charged with vehicular homicide and failing to render assistance in relation to classics star Rebellin’s death last November.

The reduced sentence would be based on both Reike’s plea and compensation paid to Rebellin’s family, a condition required by Hans Roderich Blattner, the deputy public prosecutor.

However, the former Gerolsteiner leader’s family appears to be firmly opposed to any such plea bargain, particularly when viewed in the light of Rieke’s two previous driving convictions in Italy.

In 2001, the lorry driver was convicted of fleeing the scene of a non-fatal crash in Foggia, Puglia, without stopping to give assistance to those involved in it, while in 2014 he was handed a driving ban after officers found him drunk at the wheel of his vehicle in Chieti, Abruzzo.

The case’s presiding judge Roberto Venditti has cancelled the originally scheduled hearing set for 24 November and has ordered another one for 7 December, where he will assess the 63-year-old’s plea and the proposed sentence.

> Lorry driver who killed Davide Rebellin arrested in Germany – almost seven months after retired classics star’s death

The request for a plea bargain comes six months after Rieke, who was the subject of a European arrest warrant, turned himself into the authorities in Germany and five months since he was extradited to Vicenza, where he has remained in prison while awaiting trial.

Italian cycling star Rebellin, who retired at the end of the 2022 season at the age of 51 following three decades as a professional rider, had been on a training ride near his home in Montebello Vicentino, northern Italy, on 30 November when he was struck by the truck driver and killed instantly.

According to roadside video and witness photos, Rieke got out of his cab briefly to assess the cyclist’s condition, before fleeing the scene and driving to Germany, where his brother’s haulage firm is based.

Despite Rieke being quickly identified, the Italian authorities were initially hampered in their efforts to bring Rieke to trial because there is no equivalent in Germany to the Italian law of ‘omocidio stradale’, or ‘traffic homicide’.

Police in Germany continued to work alongside their Italian counterparts in the investigation, however, and an examination of the lorry Rieke was driving discovered damage consistent with the collision, as well as evidence that it had been cleaned with a concentrated, highly acidic detergent, leading to his arrest and extradition to Italy.

> Lorry driver who killed Davide Rebellin failed to stop at scene of fatal collision because he didn’t think he was at fault, says brother

Speaking to the Italian news programme Le Iene in May, Jürgen Rieke, the owner of the Rieke Transporte company for whom the accused continued to work for over six months in the wake of the crash, claimed that his brother was “convinced he had nothing to do with what happened”.

“My brother certainly didn’t want to do any harm intentionally, he was driving a highly technological vehicle which as soon as it turns shows the presence of cyclists and pedestrians,” Rieke said.

“If he stayed there for 10 seconds, it is because he was convinced he had nothing to do with what happened. At the moment he is shaken and the investigation is ongoing so he will not issue statements.

“He didn’t run away, he just left because he didn’t realize he was guilty,” he continued. “If in Italy the police had done their job and not the press, the matter would have already been clarified. Tell Rebellin’s family that we suffer greatly from what happened.”

Davide Rebellin leads Schleck brothers and Valverde at LBL 2008 (licensed CC BY-SA 3.0 lu by Les Meloures)

> I’m fortunate I can try to contemplate why a driver would knock me off my bike: Davide Rebellin didn’t get that chance

Also speaking to Le Iene, Rebellin’s brother Carlo discussed the effects of the retired pro’s tragic death and its complicated aftermath on his family.

“Accidents can happen, but you can’t not help. My brother was treated like an object, no one even tried to apologise to us,” the 40-year-old said.

In the weeks after Rebellin’s death, the Italian professional cyclists’ union, the ACCPI, criticised what they regarded as a lack of action from the authorities.

“You can kill a cyclist, flee abroad driving your lorry and continue to live as though nothing happened,” the ACCPI said in December, “while the person you killed is still waiting for their autopsy and his devastated family has not yet been able to arrange his funeral.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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10 comments

Avatar
Christopher TR1 | 5 months ago
0 likes

Scum! Hope he gets the maximum jail time in the most unpleasant of jails!

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Miller | 5 months ago
4 likes

At least he's facing jail. Not sure he would be here in UK. 

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brooksby replied to Miller | 5 months ago
2 likes

Miller wrote:

At least he's facing jail. Not sure he would be here in UK. 

Shh - don't tell Matthew Briggs that!

Avatar
OldRidgeback | 5 months ago
6 likes

The brother's excuse that the driver didn't realise he was guilty does sound rather flimsy.

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SimoninSpalding replied to OldRidgeback | 5 months ago
5 likes

It makes it all the more callous to leave the scene if that were true, as somebody just finding an injured person on the road surely the only thought would be to get help?? In reality he knew he was drunk and ran away.

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jaymack replied to SimoninSpalding | 5 months ago
1 like

And not for the first time it would seem.

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bikes replied to OldRidgeback | 5 months ago
3 likes

The 'convinced he had nothing to do with it' story just sounds absurd to me: He hit someone without realising it (despite all the technology in the truck). At the same time he coincidentally decided to stop and get out. He finds an injured cyclist on the route he'd just been driving on, gives no assistance whatsoever then drives off and washes the truck with acid.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to OldRidgeback | 5 months ago
2 likes

OldRidgeback wrote:

The brother's excuse that the driver didn't realise he was guilty does sound rather flimsy.

In any case, even if it was true (clearly not) he would still have been breaking the Italian law which mandates that you must provide emergency assistance and summon the emergency services to any person who is incapacitated or vulnerable, penalty €2500 and/or one year imprisonment.

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Oldfatgit replied to OldRidgeback | 5 months ago
0 likes

It's in line with "the driver doesn't remember the incident" as fondly used by Police Scotland

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 5 months ago
14 likes

Even 6 years doesn't seem much considering his previous convictions. Imagine how many times he has been behind the wheel drunk and not caught. 

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