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New Port Richey man takes plea in drug deal killing

NEW PORT RICHEY — The judge told the inmate to stand.

"How old are you?" she asked.

"Twenty two," said Michael Liberty, who has been in jail since his arrest Oct. 4, 2010 on a charge of first-degree murder.

Liberty and Judge Mary Handsel were meeting in her courtroom Friday morning to decide the his fate.

Authorities say Lester Caudill, a 54-year-old Hudson man, and two other men met Liberty outside the Stop 'n Play arcade on U.S. 19 in Port Richey intending to buy 100 oxycodone tablets for $800. The deal went badly.

Liberty got in their car, pulled a gun, told them to drive and demanded their money, authorities said. The car stopped less than a mile away, behind the Goodwill at U.S. 19 and Jasmine Boulevard. One of the men struggled with Liberty for the gun and Caudill tried to intervene. He was shot once in the chest.

Caudill was a registered sex offender, convicted of raping a girl younger than 14 in Kentucky in 1994.

Liberty, of New Port Richey, was charged with first-degree murder, punishable by life in prison.

"How far in school have you gone?" the judge asked.

"I graduated high school," he said.

The judge wanted to make sure he could read, write and understand what was going on.

"Are you doing this freely and voluntarily?" she asked.

"Yes," he said.

Liberty was in court to accept a deal from the state. The charge would be reduced to second-degree murder. He would change his plea to guilty. His sentence would be 25 years in prison, with a mandatory 20 years because he used a gun. He asked to be placed in a prison with a drug treatment program.

"I will accept your plea, sir," Handsel said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

New Port Richey man takes plea in drug deal killing 10/14/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 14, 2011 10:16pm]
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