Editors note: A correction has been made to this story.
Recently released from jail early on good behavior, Naples teenager Riccardo Rivas II could be headed to Georgia to serve out his four years of probation.
Rivas was 16 when he drove a pickup truck at about 70 mph into seven vehicles at a North Naples intersection in 2009, killing 32-year-old mother of two Tracy Cate. He will no longer be required to wear an ankle monitor as part of his yearlong home confinement, Senior Collier Circuit Judge Jack Schoonover ruled Thursday.
The small tweak to his probation terms opens the door for Rivas, 19, to move north with his parents.
"By going up there with the family, No. 1, he'll have the support system he needs," said Rivas' lawyer, Shannon McFee.
At the time of the plea agreement in March 2011, both McFee and Assistant State Attorney Ron Smith agreed that Rivas could move to Georgia with his parents after his jail term. They planned for Rivas to wear a GPS ankle bracelet monitored by a private company, but Georgia's Department of Corrections wouldn't allow it.
If Schoonover denied a motion to remove the ankle monitor provision, Rivas would have had to stay in Florida for the yearlong confinement. However, by granting the motion, Georgia corrections officials have 45 days to decide whether Rivas can transfer his probation to their state.
The terms of Rivas' probation include a curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., 100 hours of community service each year, and a requirement to serve two days in the Collier County jail per year — the day of Cate's birth, Jan. 3, and death, May 23. Rivas would have been allowed to attend school and worship services with the ankle monitor.
Smith raised no objection to changing the ankle monitor provision.
"We always intended to step down these conditions, giving (Rivas) more freedom as time goes on," Smith said.
Schoonover briefly questioned Rivas about his 10 months in jail and his plans. Rivas said he worked 60 hours per week in jail and now intends to enroll in college courses, focusing on architecture.
"It would be a more structured environment and help me going through my classes and counseling," Rivas said of living in Georgia.
McFee said Rivas didn't have any conflicts with jail officials and lost 40 pounds during the 10 months.
Rivas faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted on the vehicular homicide charge. The plea negotiations were lengthy, lasting 8 to 9 hours, McFee said.
The final agreement also was contentious, with Collier Circuit Judge Fred Hardt rejecting the plea agreement. Hardt signed an order disqualifying himself from the case in February 2011 in response to a motion made by McFee.
Schoonover, who took over the case from Hardt, at times suggested the penalty was too light but ultimately accepted it. Cate's family agreed to the plea agreement terms.
"Through our discussions, everybody believed it would be in (Rivas') best interests and society's best interest for him to move on with his life," McFee said.
On Thursday, Schoonover told Rivas to take control of his life.
"You've gotten a lot of breaks since that accident," Schoonover said.