DADE CITY — Robert Bellon wanted a hit man to kill his estranged wife's boyfriend — and he wanted her to watch.
"Can you get the whole house painted?" Bellon said as hidden cameras captured his words.
Painted with blood, that is. That's mob talk for a hit.
The hit man — actually an undercover Pasco County sheriff's deputy — said he could do it. They agreed on $8,000.
"I'm in," Bellon said.
That was in October 2005. In November, a jury convicted Bellon of solicitation to commit murder.
The 53-year-old faced up to 30 years in prison at his sentencing Thursday — a death sentence at his age, argued attorney Joseph Registrato. To spare his client, the attorney tried to convince the judge that all Bellon did was say a few words.
"There was no victim injured, nothing happened except words," the attorney said. "Words."
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Many words were spoken on Bellon's behalf.
Dr. Richard Carpenter, a psychologist, talked about the collapse of Bellon's life before his arrest. The former prison drug counselor lost a stepdaughter in a 2005 auto accident. There were problems with his second wife.
That led to her affair, their separation and his bankruptcy.
"At this point he was in a complete meltdown," Carpenter said.
Bellon argued at his trial that he was coerced into meeting the undercover deputy at a Wesley Chapel motel. But now he was remorseful for a crime he may not have fully understood at the time, the psychologist said.
Then family and friends took the stand. They had nothing but good words for Bellon.
"He was a wonderful father," said the daughter from his first marriage, Robin Bellon, 25.
He stood between his brothers and an alcoholic, abusive father.
"Bob used to step in and take a couple of beatings that we deserved from time to time," brother Michael Bellon testified.
Robert Bellon was described as a spiritual man, a pacifist who fished but threw the catch back, who wouldn't step on a roach.
The bottom of the sentencing guidelines called for four years in prison, but his attorney asked for probation.
Then Bellon spoke: "I've come to the point where remorse is a ridiculous word. I have to use agony. It has been nothing but agony for the trouble caused to myself, my family, my job."
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Assistant State Attorney Stacey Sumner had another word for Bellon: coward.
"That's why Mr. Bellon wanted someone to take care of the friend of his wife, then his wife as long as he didn't have to pay extra for it," she said.
When the "hit man" said the wife might also have to die, the videotape transcript showed Bellon replied: "As long as you don't charge me for it."
Sumner said ex-wife Christine Kirk and boyfriend Steven Schumacher still fear Bellon. Sumner asked for 25 years behind bars.
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Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa stood and addressed the defense.
"Counsel, your characterization is that this is about words alone," the judge said. "It's not. It sets things into motion."
He sentenced Bellon to eight years in prison, sparing him a harsher sentence because it was his first arrest in Florida.
"You're defined by your actions," the judge said, "and it can't be erased."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.