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Questions Raised in Fla. Hopeful's '02 Accident

CBS News Station WFOR-TV in Miami and The Miami Herald have spent the last six weeks looking into a traffic accident eight years ago involving Florida congressional candidate David Mauricio Rivera and discrepancies between his version of events and what an official highway patrol report says happened.

(Scroll down to watch the report WFOR-TV filed for this story)

As executive director of the Republican party in Miami-Dade, committeeman for the state GOP and state lawmaker since 2002 - including the last two years as chairman of the Florida House Appropriations Committee - Rivera has become a politically powerful state representative.

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But as Rivera now tries to advance politically to the halls of Congress, WFOR-TV and The Miami Herald uncovered discrepancies involving an incident that happened on the Palmetto Expressway in the run-up to the 2002 election.

That incident and Rivera's response to it Tuesday raise serious questions.

According to a Florida Highway Patrol crash report filed Sept. 6, 2002, a truck working for Liberty Mailing Services was delivering campaign flyers to a post office when the accident happened. The truck was carrying thousands of flyers put out by Rivera's political opponent at the time. The fliers included a last minute attack on Rivera's character.

Before the truck could make it to the post office, according to the police report, a car driven by Rivera struck it, forcing the truck to the shoulder of the Palmetto Expressway right in the middle of evening traffic at 5:50, 10 minutes before the truck's deadline to get to the post office.

Rivera, who has refused to talk to WFOR-TV personally about the incident, released a statement that claims the accident happened because he wanted to pull the truck over on the Palmetto Expressway to "retrieve a batch of his own campaign fliers" that were also on the truck.

Rivera, in his statement, said he wanted to pull his fliers off the truck after learning Liberty Mailing Services was "also producing mailers for Rivera's opponent."

Rivera said he agreed to rendezvous with the truck on the exit ramp of the Palmetto, where Rivera said he removed his fliers from the truck.

The police report, however, says the accident happened in the middle of the road, specifically not on the exit or entrance ramps.

The report also states that Rivera was driving alone. Rivera's statement released through a spokeswoman says that other campaign workers were with him at the time in at least one other car to "help out."

One of those people who apparently helped out was attorney Juan Judas Cordero.

"Well, I remember David calling me he needed an attorney," Cordero told WFOR-TV.

Cordero told a reporter that even though it was a fender bender, he was asked by Rivera to go to the scene on the Palmetto.

"I went to the scene, surveyed the situation and that's about all I can tell you," said Cordero. "It's attorney-client privilege. He's (Rivera) got to release it. If not, I'm bound by it."

In a statement released through a spokeswoman, Rivera denies that Cordero was ever an attorney for him or his campaign.

Also, Richard Sierra, the president of Dodd Printing, which now owns Liberty Mailing, told The Miami Herald and WFOR-TV that Rivera's version of events is not quite true.

"The company truck's driver did not voluntarily pull off the highway," said Sierra. "We did not remove any fliers. Whatever was on the truck was mailed."

The same police report says the truck's driver told the officer Rivera hit him, forcing the truck to pull over, though Rivera denied that to the highway patrol officer in the same report.

Because of the conflicting statements, no charges were filed in the accident.

This isn't the first time questions in this campaign have been raised about the veracity of Rivera's statements.

In July he denied to The Miami Herald of being friends with a principal of a group that advises companies on how to trade with Cuba, despite several prominent witnesses who said the two men were close.

In June, Rivera denied that a bank began foreclosure proceedings on a house he owned with former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, even though property and foreclosure records clearly showed he did co-own the home.

The records showed the bank had begun court proceedings after Rubio and Rivera missed five months of mortgage payments.

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