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Man acquitted of two Hernando robberies

BROOKSVILLE — A jury late Thursday acquitted a man who faced life in prison for his suspected roles in two separate robberies in Hernando County last year.

After about two hours of deliberation, a six member-jury found 25-year-old Christopher Hood not guilty on multiple counts of armed robbery and robbery.

Hood and four other men were accused of entering the Beach Bar on Shoal Line Boulevard in Hernando Beach at 2 a.m. one Saturday last January and robbing at least nine customers at gunpoint.

Hood was not accused of using a gun in that crime, but did use a gun in a robbery the day before at the AVA game room on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill, Assistant State Attorney Don Barbee told the jury.

The cases were consolidated and relied almost entirely on the testimony of codefendants who wore orange prison jumpsuits on the stand, and that likely had an impact on the verdict, Barbee said.

"It's disappointing, but you've got to respect the jury's decision," he said.

Hood, who was listed as homeless at the time of his arrest, was released from prison in August 2009 for a burglary charge. As a prior offender, he faced life in prison if convicted of armed robbery.

Hood didn't go free after his acquittal, though. He is being held as he awaits a Jan. 31 trial date on a charge of armed robbery in Pasco County. Prosecutors say Hood was one of two men who snatched a woman's purse in Hudson last year.

The victim identified Hood from a photo, said Assistant State Attorney Chris LaBruzzo. Hood, who is suspected of being affiliated with a gang, faces a mandatory minimum 15 year sentence if convicted.

"I'm excited to try it because I've got eyewitness testimony, video evidence and jailhouse informants," LaBruzzo said.

William Pent, 21, of Weeki Wachee and Joshua Depew, 20, and Richard Depew, 22, both of New Port Richey, all took plea deals in the Hernando case. A fourth suspect, Shawn McLoughlin, 25, confessed and is also expected to accept a plea deal that would cap his sentence at 15 years, Barbee said. He has a court appearance set for next week.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Man acquitted of two Hernando robberies 01/14/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 2:52pm]
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