NEW PORT RICHEY — Brittany Miles looked at the ceiling as the clerk read the verdict. She was going to prison for a long time, regardless of what the jury decided.
A year and a half ago, she was a strung-out 21-year-old stripper who was high on prescription drugs when she escaped from a patrol car during a DUI stop in Hudson. She led authorities on a 100-mph chase on U.S. 19 that ended with an injured deputy thrown into the roadway and a Hernando motorcyclist dead.
During her trial this week, Miles admitted her guilt to three of the charges: escape, fleeing law enforcement and driving under the influence. She contested a fourth, attempted felony murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
After deliberating for two hours Wednesday, the six-person jury found her guilty of a lesser charge: battery on a law enforcement officer. Instead of life in prison, Miles faces about 35 years when she is sentenced Dec. 4.
"Thank you," she mouthed to jurors after the verdict was read, tears streaming down her face. She still faces a murder charge in Hernando in January for the death of Henry McCain, 67. That could carry a life sentence.
Pasco Deputy Ashley Grady, the officer injured in the May 10, 2011, pursuit, declined to speak to reporters after the trial. "The family has gone through a very difficult period, and this is an extremely stressful time for all of them," Grady's family said in a written statement.
Miles testified that she remembers little of that terrible day. After Grady arrested her for DUI, Miles said she swallowed a handful of Xanax pills she had hidden in her underwear, afraid she would be in even more trouble if she was caught with the drugs. Then she slipped off one handcuff and reached through a rolled-down window to open the door of the patrol car. She ran to her red pickup, with Grady close behind. Grady leapt onto the sideboard as Miles gunned the truck out of a parking lot and into the morning rush-hour traffic of U.S. 19.
Grady, now 24, testified that she clung to the truck in a life-or-death struggle with Miles, who kept saying she wasn't going to jail. Miles elbowed her out of the window, Grady said, sending her rolling into the highway, her leg broken, her skin scraped away, her head concussed and bleeding. A tow truck driver who came to impound Miles' truck ran across traffic to stop cars from hitting Grady. He testified that the first thing Grady said was, "That b - - - - pushed me out the window."
Grady was off work for three months and still has dizziness and leg pain.
Miles said she didn't know Grady was on the truck until after she floored the gas. She denied shoving the deputy. That intent — or the lack of it — is the difference between attempted murder and battery.
"I know that I did not push her," a weepy Miles testified Tuesday. "I know that I did not intend for her to get hurt."
An attorney for Miles, Aaron Delgado, said she should get points for taking responsibility for her actions.
"Brittany Miles should have some credibility in your minds for standing up there, putting herself in your hands and saying, 'Yes, I am guilty of those things,' " Delgado told jurors. "That should give her some credibility when she says, 'No, I did not intentionally touch that deputy.' "
The prosecution was skeptical. Assistant State Attorney Vin Petty said it was "miraculous" that Miles couldn't remember much of anything that day, but has a "crystal clear" memory of not intentionally pushing Grady.
Miles, now 22, testified she became addicted to oxycodone after a doctor prescribed the pills for her back pain from a 2009 car crash. Loved ones said Miles was a completely different person before addiction consumed her life. She was a good student and in the marching band. After high school, she worked at restaurants and loved her young son.
In a letter to the court, her mother, Hernando sheriff's Deputy Debra Miles, said she has her "daughter back" now that Miles is sober in jail. She said her daughter counsels other inmates "to stop anyone who may go down the same path that she did."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.