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Man gets life sentence in drug-related murder

James Ray Booth, shown during jury selection May 12 in Circuit Judge Jack Springstead’s courtroom, said he “grabbed the barrel of the gun in self defense.”

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

James Ray Booth, shown during jury selection May 12 in Circuit Judge Jack Springstead’s courtroom, said he “grabbed the barrel of the gun in self defense.”

BROOKSVILLE — James Ray Booth stood calmly with his hands clasped at his waist. His only movement were his eyes, which blinked slowly as Circuit Judge Jack Springstead delivered his sentence.

Booth's demeanor never changed, even when he learned he'd spend the rest of his life in a prison uniform like the one he wore to the courthouse Thursday afternoon.

Booth, 58, found guilty of third-degree murder on May 14, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He received a second, consecutive life sentence for aggravated assault with a firearm and a 20-year sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

He continued to insist on his innocence, even minutes before Springstead sentenced him.

"I'm sorry that there was a man killed that day," Booth said, referring to Oct. 21, 2006, when Kenneth LaPointe Sr. was shot in his home. "But I didn't kill him."

Booth reiterated his position, which public defender Patricia Jenkins argued during the trial and on Thursday, that he did not shoot the gun that he has admitted bringing to LaPointe's house north of Brooksville.

"I grabbed the barrel of the gun in self defense," he said, "or else I would have been killed that day myself."

LaPointe, who was 56 at the time of his death, was sitting at his kitchen table when Booth and Thor Richmond began to fight over a drug debt Booth owed. Prosecutors said Booth shot the gun two or three times, with one shot hitting LaPointe in the chest.

Jenkins argued that Richmond, not Booth, fired the shot that killed LaPointe. "Both of them had their hands on the gun," Jenkins said. "Both of them were struggling."

Jenkins said she will appeal the conviction and the sentencing.

Prosecutor Pete Magrino argued, and Springstead agreed, that Booth should be classified as a habitual felony offender, which allows for stricter sentencing guidelines.

Booth has a lengthy criminal background, including convictions for multiple armed robberies and drug possession.

Springstead chastised Booth, saying if anybody should have known not to own a gun, it should have been Booth. He said LaPointe might still be alive if Booth didn't bring the gun.

"You've had a number of second bites of the apple and haven't learned,'' Springstead said after reading the sentence. "Like Mr. LaPointe, now you're done."

Michael Sanserino can be reached at msanserino@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1430.

Man gets life sentence in drug-related murder 06/05/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 6, 2008 7:56pm]
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