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Jury finds Holiday man guilty in 2009 crash that killed two friends

Shawn Cleaver leaves the courtroom at the West Pasco Judicial Center during the lunch break in his trial Tuesday.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Shawn Cleaver leaves the courtroom at the West Pasco Judicial Center during the lunch break in his trial Tuesday.

NEW PORT RICHEY It took less than two hours for a jury to convict a Holiday man whose two friends were killed four years ago in an alcohol-related crash.

Shawn Cleaver, 39, was found guilty Friday night after a weeklong trial on two counts each of DUI manslaughter and culpable negligence. But the law allows him to be sentenced only on two counts, so prosecutors have chosen the DUIs. Sentencing is set for Dec. 23 before Circuit Judge Mary Handsel. Cleaver faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.

The three friends left the Players Club on a Sunday after midnight in October 2009. According to prosecutors, Cleaver got behind the wheel of Harry "Buster" Diede's souped-up truck. The group, which also included Mark R. Whisner, had been drinking most of the day. The pickup barreled along Denton Avenue at 90 miles per hour, then swiped a guardrail and flipped four times before slamming into a concrete pole, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Diede and Whisner died. Cleaver was injured.

Cleaver told investigators he had "a lot of beer," according to prosecutor Eva Vergos, and his blood-alcohol level was measured between 0.124 and 0.125 percent, above the 0.08 threshold at which Florida law presumes a driver to be impaired.

His attorney, Dan Duryea, told jurors there were no eyewitnesses to the fatal truck crash, and that "no one knows who was really driving."

Jury finds Holiday man guilty in 2009 crash that killed two friends 11/12/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 7:30pm]
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