BROOKSVILLE — Nearly a year ago, authorities announced one of the largest drug busts in Hernando County history.
The news shook the community — especially because of the purported link to Angilo Freeland, a Lakeland drug trafficker who shot and killed a Polk County deputy and his police dog during a traffic stop.
Assistant State Attorney Rob Lewis initially planned to use Freeland's association to Bobby Walter, an alleged Brooksville drug boss, if Walter's case went to trial later this year as planned.
But Lewis changed course Thursday during a lengthy motion hearing.
"While the Freeland stuff makes great press and is interesting to the jury, I have enough evidence and I don't want it appealed," Lewis said.
According to documents obtained by the Times, a phone number for a member of Walter's organization was found on Freeland's cell phone. Also, during a secretly taped call, Walter is heard referring to Freeland as "my homeboy (who) was just up here with me."
At the hearing, Walter's attorney, Dirk Weed of Tampa, objected to the Freeland link, saying it would unfairly stain his client.
"I think clearly any evidence allowing that would be prejudicial," Weed told Circuit Judge Jack Springstead.
The judge appeared willing to agree, and Lewis withdrew his plans, sensing the court's direction.
"I can see where that issue is so inflammatory to a jury," he said afterward. "I didn't feel like I needed to take a chance."
The prosecutor still felt confident because earlier in the hearing, Springstead rejected Weed's motion to suppress assorted evidence seized during the sting. The judge also ruled Lewis can introduce details about four undercover drug buys involving Walter.
Weed contended that facts supporting the search warrant weren't reliable because of the involvement of a confidential informant. He also argued that the evidence collected exceeded the scope of the warrants.
John Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6114.