7 dogs found mistreated
A Ruskin man was arrested Thursday, charged with cruelty toward his seven pit bulls. Gerardo Mendez's dogs were found in his yard at 301 27th St. SE, surrounded by feces and without any access to water or food, according to a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy. Feces was piled up to 6 inches in some places and one male dog had a chain worn into its neck, where the deputy observed what he described as a infected wound. Mendez, 37, said the wounded dog had outgrown the chain around his neck. The owner is charged with one count of felony animal cruelty and seven counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. He was being held at Orient Road Jail with bail set at $5,500.
Man gets 11 months for DUI
A Spring Hill man whom prosecutors called "one of the worst drivers in Hernando County" received 11 months in jail Thursday on charges of misdemeanor driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license. Brian Gomes, 26, initially faced a much lengthier sentence, but a jury acquitted him Feb. 20 on charges of DUI manslaughter in the death of his friend, Marc Collins, 23, in December 2005. The verdict meant Gomes would have been sentenced as a first-time offender. But Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto cited a legal precedent that allowed the judge to sentence Gomes as if it was his second DUI conviction because the charge is still a misdemeanor. "Eleven months total for taking a (life)?" asked Collins' grandfather, Ralph Tully. "That's a small price to pay."
Hit plot doomed from start
Authorities say Dwayne Theodore Brownfield, 39, hatched an elaborate plot last year to kill his wife: He would take the kids from their Wesley Chapel home, then a hitman would shoot his wife and make it look like a robbery. The hitman would get $25,000; the middleman who put Brownfield in touch with the gunman would get $20,000. But there was one hitch: The hitman turned out to be an undercover sheriff's deputy. Brownfield, a Port Richey car salesman, was arrested in March 2007 on a charge of solicitation to commit murder. He pleaded no contest to that charge Thursday. Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa found him guilty and sent him to prison for four years. Brownfield can thank his now ex-wife, Jeannie, for not seeking a maximum sentence of up to 30 years. The defendant, though, said nothing in court.