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Ex-leader of Warlocks Motorcycle Club gets 20 years in Hernando stabbing

BROOKSVILLE — At some point during a bloody knife attack two years ago, Karen Hoffman looked up at her former boyfriend and begged him to stop.

Michael Clements ignored Hoffman's cries for help. He told her that he wanted her to die.

Already bleeding profusely from stab wounds to her neck and back, Hoffman decided to go limp. It was the only way she thought she might be able to survive the attack. Clements left, thinking she was dead.

"He showed me no mercy — none," Hoffman said in a Hernando courtroom Thursday. "I suggest no mercy for him either."

But in a ruling that fell somewhere between sentences suggested by prosecutors and the defense, County Judge Kurt Hitzemann sentenced Clements to 20 years in prison for the stabbing of Hoffman in November 2007.

A former leader of the local chapter of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club, the 49-year-old Clements pleaded no contest Dec. 2 to charges of attempted first-degree murder and burglary of a dwelling with battery.

Authorities said Clements stabbed Hoffman several times in the neck at her mobile home at 122 Lucas Drive in Brooksville on the morning of Nov. 28, 2007. The motive was unclear. He fled as a passenger in a white pickup, but turned himself in to authorities a couple of days later at the behest of his associates.

At his sentencing hearing Thursday, more than 20 supporters filled the seats on one side of the courtroom. Nearly a dozen character witnesses spoke on behalf of Clements, claiming the former gang leader was actually a gentle man who has struggled with mental illness all of his life.

"Mike had mental illness for as long as I've known him," his ex-wife, Eva Clements, told Hitzemann. "But … he's got a good heart. I really wish you could get him some help."

During a brief address to the court, Clements struggled to hold back tears as he apologized to Hoffman and his family members and friends.

"What happened was a terrible thing … and I did it," Clements said. "I'm not sure why. I hope someday you can forgive me for it."

Defense attorney James Brown pushed Hitzemann to consider an 11-year sentence to a rehabilitation center in Avon Park and another 20 years of probation.

But Hitzemann said he was unmoved by the personal testimony.

"While your supporters noted it's an aberration," Hitzemann said, "it's an extraordinary aberration and warrants punishment."

Clements has a criminal record that includes felony assault charges, including one on a police officer. At the time of the stabbing, the Sheriff's Office said Clements was known to carry weapons and was considered to be armed and dangerous.

Two days before he stabbed Hoffman, the local headquarters of the Warlocks had caught fire. The building, at 2029 Ganz Drive in Brooksville, was not far from Hoffman's Lucas Drive home.

During the attack, Hoffman said, Clements made comments about her "(messing) with his house."

After the hearing was over, Eva Clements and other family members would not comment about the sentence, pointing to Hoffman and saying, "I'll bet she has a lot to say."

Hoffman, who was escorted to the courtroom by a friend and representative from the State Attorney's Office, declined to comment.

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Ex-leader of Warlocks Motorcycle Club gets 20 years in Hernando stabbing 01/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 28, 2010 9:29pm]

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