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After almost a decade behind bars, Holiday man gets chance at freedom

By Jon Silman, Times Staff Writer
Published: August 1, 2014 Updated: August 2, 2014 at 12:27 AM
J.J. Daiak was granted a new trial last month after a judge cited errors by his attorney.

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 62-year-old man who is eight years into a 20-year sentence for shooting at Pasco sheriff's deputies he mistook for hurricane looters won a chance at freedom Friday when a judge agreed to set bail ahead of his new trial.

But J.J. Daiak, a former attorney with no previous criminal history, won't be leaving jail any time soon.

Circuit Judge William Webb set bail at $400,000, much too high for Daiak's elderly mother or his long-time girlfriend Donna Vaillancourt to afford.

"We do not have the money," Vaillancourt said. "I'm disappointed, but we'll keep mailing and calling, and I'll be working as his little paralegal like I've been doing."

Ten years ago, Daiak fired his .357-caliber Magnum twice, to warn what he thought were burglars looting his house in Holiday during Hurricane Frances. The bullets hit a sofa and a wall. He was charged with aggravated assault on law enforcement — four counts for four deputies.

He had argued with Vaillancourt earlier that day, and someone called 911. She told deputies everything was fine, but when she went to get Daiak, she saw him with the gun and told the deputies he was holding it to his head.

Later, men's voices woke him up. He couldn't hear them clearly over the wind and rain.

Had he known it was law enforcement, he testified in the trial, "I would have gone outside and talked to them; say, 'Hi, guys, what's up?' "

He has maintained his innocence while serving his prison sentence, campaigning restlessly throughout — writing law briefs and contacting lawyers. Last month, Webb granted him a new trial citing errors by his attorney.

Daiak was not in court Friday. His new attorney, Monica Grey, argued for bail around $15,000. She asked Webb to consider case law passed since Daiak's sentencing, which would take Daiak's crime out of Florida's 10-20-Life statute.

Webb said he was "acutely aware" of all the facts of Daiak's case.

The new trial could come as soon as September.

Contact Jon Silman at (727) 869-6229 or [email protected] Follow @Jonsilman1.