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Man sentenced to life in Hernando faces trial in Pasco

Already convicted of felony attempted murder and sentenced in Hernando County to life in prison, Michael Anthony will next face a Pasco County jury on a first-degree murder charge.

"It's a separate offense with separate facts and a separate victim who has loved ones who want to see justice," 6th Circuit Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said.

He said Anthony's Hernando sentence doesn't affect his decision.

Attorneys from the Pasco Public Defender's Office represented Anthony, 37, at his Hernando trial earlier this month. Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger said that was for "consistency of representation."

In Florida, a person can be charged with murder when someone dies in the commission of a felony, whether they intended to kill or not.

On July 3, 2011, Anthony of Ocala led Hernando deputies on a chase around 4 a.m. after he ran a red light on U.S. 41. He had been smoking crack, he said in court, for 36 straight hours. He was hallucinating and in a state of extreme paranoia. The binge broke his three-year sobriety streak.

Hernando sheriff's Sgt. Brandon Ross and Deputy John Mecklenburg joined in the chase.

Ross hit Anthony's Honda and it spun off the highway. The deputies ordered Anthony out of the car, but he took a hit off his crack pipe and sped off.

In court, Ross said Anthony swerved into Ross' lane and collided with his patrol car. Ross spun a half circle and crashed into two cars parked at a shopping plaza near U.S. 41 and Ayers Road. A Hernando jury found him guilty of attempted felony murder of a law enforcement officer and attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer.

Moments after Anthony's collision with Ross' patrol car, Mecklenburg lost control of his car and slammed into a tree just south of the Pasco-Hernando line. He died a short time later. The trial is set for February.

Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report.

Man sentenced to life in Hernando faces trial in Pasco 10/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 9:26pm]
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