BROOKSVILLE — A Brooksville drug dealer with ties to a Polk County cop killer took a plea deal Monday that will spare him from a potential lifelong prison sentence.
Bobby Walter, 30, pleaded no contest to 10 drug trafficking-related felony charges. Circuit Judge Jack Springstead convicted Walter and sentenced him to 22 1/2 years in state prison — a term negotiated by prosecutors and defense attorney Dirk Weed.
"I'm thrilled," said Assistant State Attorney Rob Lewis. "It was a really good resolution."
Known on the streets as "Benny the Bug," Walter was arrested in June 2006 after a months-long undercover operation aimed at breaking up a major drug ring based in Brooksville.
Federal, state and local authorities linked the sophisticated network to drug trafficker Angilo Freeland, who shot and killed Polk County Deputy Matt Williams and his dog, Diogi, in September 2005, before dying in a hail of gunfire from officers.
The operation led to the arrests of more than 20 suspected associates of Freeland — including nine Hernando County residents who initially faced more than 50 combined charges.
The Brooksville network was led by Marcus "Raw" Fields, who is wanted for arrest, authorities said. His chief associate was Walter, a convicted drug dealer who mostly bought his drugs — typically cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana — in Tampa and brought them to residences on Powell and Mobley roads, investigative reports state.
In a taped cell phone call, Walter referred to Freeland as "my homeboy (who) was just up here with me," according to court documents. Also, a phone number for a member of Walter's organization was found on Freeland's cell phone.
Authorities arrested Walter after he learned that he had been selling drugs to an undercover Hernando County detective, whom he identified with the help of a friend who worked in the Hernando Clerk of Court's Office.
Walter's attorney planned to take the case to trial later this month but began to reconsider after attempts to challenge the validity of the search warrants failed. The plea agreement still allows Weed to appeal that point; if successful, it would negate the sentence.
Walter, whose wears a tattoo of praying hands next to the words "Only God can judge me," will serve a mandatory 15 years of his sentence, with a year credit for time already served, and the judge agreed to recommend that he serve his time at a nearby prison so he can still see his children.
"It's a best-case scenario based upon the facts presented to us at this time," Weed said of the sentence.
The resolution means only the case of Brock Shade, another suspected local dealer, remains in the courts. Shade is scheduled to appear in court next week with a possible trial date for Aug. 18.
John Frank can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6114.