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Brittany Miles withdraws plea from 2011 chase that ended in motorcyclist's death

NEW PORT RICHEY — She thought she might get a break by throwing herself on the mercy of the court.

Brittany Miles, arrested last year in connection with a two-county rampage that seriously injured a Pasco deputy and killed a Hernando motorcyclist, admitted taking a risk when she pleaded no contest in March to attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. She had no deal with prosecutors. Instead she hoped Circuit Judge Michael Andrews would give her less than the maximum of life in prison.

But it turns out, he can't. The law says a person found guilty of that charge shall be sentenced to life in prison, without parole.

So on Monday, Andrews let Miles withdraw her plea and instead face a jury. Attorneys will meet June 21 to set a trial date.

Andrews said Miles had made her plea based on the incorrect assumption he had flexibility.

"The court does not have the discretion to downwardly depart in this case," Andrews said. Given those circumstances, he said, a life sentence would not be fair.

Miles, dressed in orange and white jailhouse stripes and wearing dark-framed glasses, said nothing. Her attorney and relatives, who filled several rows in the courtroom, declined to comment.

It's relatively rare for a judge to allow a defendant to withdraw a plea, said Larry Hart, a New Port Richey attorney who is not connected with this case. However, the law requires that pleas be entered knowingly and intelligently in order to be considered voluntary. If those requirements aren't met, he said, the defendant has a valid issue to appeal.

Miles, a former stripper and daughter of a Hernando sheriff's deputy, faces Pasco charges of attempted murder, escape, fleeing to elude law enforcement, possession of methamphetamine and DUI. Her legal issues are not affected by the Deputy John C. Mecklenburg Act signed in April. The new law, inspired by the 2011 death of a Hernando deputy whose car hit a tree during a high-speed chase, increases the charges that can be brought if an officer or bystander is killed while a suspect is fleeing law enforcement.

On May 10, 2011, Pasco Deputy Ashley Grady pulled Miles over and arrested her in Hudson on a suspected DUI, but Miles got one hand free from her handcuffs. She reached through the cruiser's window — which had been rolled down for deputies to speak with Miles — opened the door, ran to her truck and peeled out, authorities say.

Grady leapt onto the running board, clung to the truck and tried to pull the keys out of the ignition. The Sheriff's Office says Miles shoved Grady off of the truck, flinging her onto the traffic lanes on U.S. 19. She was cut, bruised and had a broken leg, and was later suspended for five days without pay for violating agency rules by leaving the window down.

A few miles north, authorities say, Miles had several cruisers trailing her in a 100 mph chase when she struck and killed motorcyclist Henry McCain, 67. That crash was in Hernando. There, she is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated fleeing and eluding. If convicted of murder, the sentence is life in prison.

Brittany Miles withdraws plea from 2011 chase that ended in motorcyclist's death 05/14/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 14, 2012 9:32pm]
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