TAMPA — The same day David J. Heckman was supposed to sit for his first meeting on the board of the county's transit agency, authorities accused him of shooting his fiancee's ex-husband in the thigh.
On Thursday, a jury acquitted Heckman of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
The conservative community activist was removed from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority after his arrest.
"It took a lot of guts on the part of the jury, but their decision was the right decision," said Rick Terrana, Heckman's attorney.
Heckman, 63, prevailed after a long legal battle.
He was arrested in November 2005, accused of firing several shots outside his Valrico home after arguing with Robert Carroll over child visitation issues.
A year later, Heckman's attorney persuaded Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman to drop the charge. Heckman argued self-defense. He said Florida's "stand your ground" law permitted him to use deadly force because Carroll had threatened to break his jaw, then entered Heckman's garage and vandalized his car.
Prosecutors appealed. In December, the 2nd District Court of Appeal reinstated the charge. Appeals judges said Heckman was not immune from prosecution because Carroll was walking away from the garage when Heckman shot him.
Heckman took his chances at trial this week, testifying on his own behalf, Terrana said. The verdict came Thursday.
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