The 17-year-old son of wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan was sentenced to eight months in jail Friday after he pleaded no contest to causing a crash that seriously injured his best friend.
Nick Bollea was immediately led out of court to begin his sentence. He cast a quick backward glance at his family, then his tie and belt were removed before he was taken to the jail next door.
The judge also ordered Bollea to serve five years of probation and surrender his driving privileges for three years.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, wore a black bandanna and testified on his son’s behalf, as did his estranged wife Linda and daughter Brooke.
The family of John Graziano, who was critically hurt in the August crash, asked the judge to impose a sentence of up to a year in jail, well short of the five years Nick Bollea could have received.
The Bolleas, who star in the VH1 reality show “Hogan Knows Best,” left the courtroom glumly after the verdict and did not comment.
Nick Bollea was arrested in November and charged with felony reckless driving that caused a serious bodily injury. Authorities say he was street racing his father’s 1998 Toyota Supra when he struck a curb, spun in traffic and slammed into a palm tree.
The impact critically injured Graziano, who now needs lifetime medical care. A former Marine who served in Iraq, Graziano was not wearing a seat belt and suffered a broken skull and other severe injuries.
Bollea, who was not seriously hurt, had alcohol in his system at the time of the crash. Authorities cited him for being a driver under 21 operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of .02 percent or higher and having illegal window tinting. He will attend DUI classes and can’t drink as terms of his probation.
Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser said a reconstruction determined Bollea was driving 69 miles per hour on a busy street. The accident came roughly two weeks after Bollea had been cited for driving 82 miles per hour in a construction zone and was one of numerous speeding tickets and warnings on the teen’s driving record, Rosenwasser said.
Graziano’s family has filed a civil suit against Terry and Linda Bollea, alleging they are liable for their son’s actions. The suit is a key reason why Nick Bollea opted not to admit guilt during Friday’s hearing.
Graziano’s family said through an attorney they were satisfied with the verdict, but wished the judge would have found Bollea guilty.
“Speeding to Nick was a badge of honor,” Graziano’s mother, Debbie, said during the hearing. “I’m not seeking revenge, only justice.”
Graziano, 23, befriended Bollea because of their mutual love of cars, according to testimony Friday. In court, Bollea apologized to the Grazianos, turning his back to the judge and addressing the family directly.
Bollea’s family, including his father, described Graziano as a fellow family member who celebrated birthdays, his deployment overseas and other important events at their house.
“Now we’re dealing with a void that just can’t be filled,” Linda Bollea said.