BROOKSVILLE — Moments after handing down a quarter-century prison term Wednesday, Circuit Judge Barbara Gurrola insisted on breaking security protocol for the sake of compassion.
"I'm going to let his mother give him a hug, if he wants her to, and allow his father to as well," Gurrola told the bailiffs, who expressed security concerns.
The judge insisted.
One after the other, 23-year-old Lucas Sterling Farrell's parents hugged their shackled, tearful son before he was led away.
It was an emotional end for a defendant who proclaimed his innocence.
Last month, a jury convicted the Spring Hill auto mechanic on charges of attempted felony murder with a firearm and home invasion robbery while armed. Investigators found his blood all over the crime scene at Candlelight Apartments in Brooksville.
Farrell denied that he broke through an apartment window in the early morning hours of July 25, 2011, and shot his drug dealer with an assault rifle. He testified that he and a friend went to the complex about 1:30 a.m. to buy a few grams of cocaine from Evan Lethco. He said the friend arranged the meeting and that they had bought drugs from Lethco on a couple of other occasions.
This time, Farrell said, his friend waited in the car. When Lethco handed over the bag, the drug felt like sugar. Farrell said he asked for his money back, but Lethco said the sale was final, then started throwing punches. Farrell said he swung a few times to defend himself, then fled to a red Mustang, where his friend was waiting.
The cocaine turned out to be real, but of poor quality, Farrell said. In addition to taking that drug, Farrell said, he drank vodka and took Percocet and Xanax. Then he drove the Mustang, alone, back to the apartment. Armed with a hammer, he said, he walked up to Lethco's bedroom window, took one swing and then fled.
Lethco's testimony during Farrell's trial contradicted that of Farrell. He said his girlfriend went to bed about 10 p.m. and he followed her about an hour later. They awoke about 5 a.m. when a man armed with a rifle broke through the window and demanded money.
There was a struggle over the gun before the intruder pulled the trigger several times. One bullet hit Lethco in the foot; another grazed his hand. The intruder made off with about $100.
Investigators found Farrell's blood on the window, a chair on the patio and the fence surrounding it, and on an inside door handle.
A friend of Farrell's testified that he told her he had been in a fight involving a gun and threw the weapon in a lake. Farrell disputed that. He also testified that he cut his hand at work a couple of days earlier and the wound bled during the earlier fight with Lethco and again when he returned and broke the window.
During Wednesday's hearing, Assistant State Attorney Rob Lewis noted that the law required Farrell to be sentenced to between 25 years and life in prison because he discharged a firearm and injured a victim while committing a felony.
But Lewis also pointed out that Farrell did not have an extensive criminal record.
"I would suggest that a sentence of less than life would be appropriate," Lewis said.
Then Farrell's parents asked for leniency. They called their son a hard worker who got mixed up with the wrong people.
"He has good in him," his father, Donald Farrell, told the judge. "I know he has a drug substance abuse problem, and I know that fuels some of the decisions he makes. He's got to be done with it."
"He has a lot of regret and remorse," said his mother, Jennie Kimble Farrell. "He made a terrible decision that's going to affect his life, and everybody in his life, for the rest of our lives. Any glimmer of hope would be nice."
Gurrola told Farrell he was lucky to have his parents' support. Noting that he took honors classes in high school, she urged him to read and take advantage of drug counseling in prison.
"Whatever you do, don't get into trouble while you're there," Gurrola said. "Your parents have faith in you, that you're a good person. Show them that they're not wrong."
Reach Tony Marrero at email@example.com or (352) 848-1431. On Twitter: @TMarreroTimes and @HernandoTimes.