Former councilman pays hit-and-run victim

Victim paid for damage by talk show host

Author: Stephen Dean, Investigative Reporter, sdean@kprc.com
Published On: Feb 23 2012 09:22:05 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 23 2012 10:23:03 PM CST
Michael Berry Check
HOUSTON -

Talk show host Michael Berry has cut a check to the victim of a widely publicized hit-and-run, Local 2 Investigates reported on Thursday.

The $2,000 check came with a letter from Berry's lawyer, who said that Berry wanted to make it right "if" the victim or prosecutors felt that Berry was responsible for the wreck.

Local 2 Investigates first reported last week that Berry, a former Houston City Councilman, was considered the suspect in a case where a man's car was hit by a SUV that fled the scene on January 31st outside a gay bar in the Montrose area of Houston.

Video from that club was provided to police, showing Berry inside the club just before the crash.

Tuderia Bennett, the victim of the hit-and-run, said he felt a cover-up would have continued had it not been widely reported in the media.

"I'm kind of glad the media was here as much of an ordeal as it was. It seems to have gotten some sort of results, so I'm glad about that at least," said Bennett after receiving the check and the lawyer's letter.

"I was kind of shocked, but happy nonetheless. So I hope this draws an end to a huge, huge ordeal that was two weeks too long," said Bennett.

Berry's attorney, Dick Deguerin, did not return a call from Local 2 Investigates, but his letter offered the payment in hopes of settling the matter.

The letter was copied to prosecutors and police and pointed out that the $2,000 payment was made with the full knowledge of investigators on the case.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office could still decide to pursue misdemeanor charges of Failure to Stop and Give Information (FSGI) once police finish their revamped investigation. However, if they ask Bennett, he said Berry has now done enough and he no longer wants to press charges.

"I'm just going to tell them let's let sleeping dogs lie," said Bennett.

Houston Police had initially closed the books on the case without filing charges, but after Local 2 Investigates first reported that several witnesses had spotted Berry behind the wheel on the night of the crash, a new team of investigators was assigned to the case and Mayor Annise Parker said high-level HPD commanders were providing oversight.

Without the media attention, Bennett said the entire case would have turned into a larger ordeal and would have continued to be covered up.

Bennett said he still hasn't gotten the apology from Berry that he would like.

"I kind of want to meet with him in person, kind of talk to him about it man to man with nobody else around and then see what he says and we can let bygones be bygones," said Bennett.

Berry has declined to answer questions from reporters about the ordeal, and he told his radio show listeners that the case was receiving publicity because of his enemies who want to see him taken off the air.