BROOKSVILLE — A 52-year-old Brooksville man who allegedly hatched a plan to kill his wife's boss by hiring a hit man received 50 months in prison and five years' probation Thursday under a plea deal with prosecutors.
Lonnie Johnson pleaded no contest to felony counts of solicitation to commit armed robbery and solicitation to commit aggravated battery as well as three unrelated drug charges.
The sentence is far less than what Johnson initially faced after his arrest on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and criminal solicitation to commit murder.
But prosecutors said questions about Johnson's true intent and a victim who didn't want to testify forced them to make a deal.
"It was unclear as to whether he was trying to hire the undercover detective to beat up the guy real bad or to kill him," said Assistant State Attorney Don Barbee.
The bizarre lovers' quarrel began last summer after Johnson became convinced his wife, Edna Johnson, was cheating on him with her boss, Maurice Carter. The two were close friends but Carter said he is gay and has dated a male partner for four years.
Lonnie Johnson didn't stop, though. In July, he went to confront his wife at the Joy-Lan Drive-in movie theater in Dade City where she works and where he did part-time work for Carter.
Johnson drove through a metal gate at the theater before Carter called police who issued a trespass warning. Johnson wanted to hurt Carter because "he is from Florida and doesn't like homosexuals," according to an arrest warrant.
Carter told the Times things escalated when Johnson called to say "him and his buddy were going man-hunting to kill me."
Johnson's plan was to have a hit man take Carter's car keys and the theater's cash box to make it look like a robbery. He told his plan to an acquaintance who then called the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
The acquaintance helped set up a meeting with Johnson and a would-be hit man, who was an undercover detective. During the taped discussion, Johnson laid out a plan and was arrested on the spot.
John Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352)754-6114.