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Convicted of two DUI manslaughter counts, man gets 40 years

LARGO — Jimmy Alton Dunn's drunken past caught up to him Friday inside a Pinellas County courtroom.

It took a jury an hour to find Dunn guilty of two counts of DUI manslaughter in the deaths of Harold Davis, a 25-year-old married father of three, and his friend Jason Hennis, 24.

Then the judge sentenced the serial DUI offender to 40 years in prison.

"It is never about winning when tragedies like these happen," said Reynaldo Davis, 50, the father of one of the victims. "All the families were affected and my wife and I am very, very sorry.

"However, we have to be responsible for the choices we make in life."

Davis and Hennis were killed in August 2008 while riding on Davis' motorcycle. Authorities said Dunn cut them off, drunkenly pulling his Oldsmobile into their path on southbound Keene Road.

"The simplest evidence," Assistant State Attorney Holly Grissinger told jurors during her closing, "is that he was three times the legal limit."

The blood alcohol level at which Florida law presumes a driver is impaired is 0.08. Jurors also heard a witness tell a 911 operator that Dunn appeared to be "drunk as a skunk."

But the jury didn't know about Dunn's three previous DUI arrests or that his driver's license had been revoked for 10 years. He had gotten it back less than a year before the crash.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Chris Hellinger, though, knew all about his criminal record, which includes three DUI arrests in a nine-year span and numerous drug arrests, too.

Under Florida law, Dunn must serve 85 percent of his sentence — which could make it a virtual life sentence for the 60-year-old defendant.

Hellinger sentenced him to 30 years in prison for one count. After that sentence ends, she ordered him to serve 10 more years for the second count.

She also took away his driver's licence for the rest of his life.

"She made mention of the fact that this is someone who should never be on the roads again," Grissinger said after the verdict.

Before jury deliberations, Dunn's public defenders reiterated Friday the defense's argument that it was the motorcycle's speed that resulted in the deaths of the two men.

If the victims hadn't been traveling at more than 70 mph, the defense argued, they would have been able to avoid Dunn's car.

Evidence at the scene showed that the motorcycle was braking before it struck the Oldsmobile as the car tried to turn left at Sunset Point Road. But the motorcycle still clipped the car that had suddenly pulled into its path, sending the two victims flying.

The defense conceded, though, that Dunn had been drinking before the crash.

After the verdict, Dunn apologized for the men's deaths. He said that he never saw the motorcycle when he pulled out into the road.

Convicted of two DUI manslaughter counts, man gets 40 years 12/11/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 11, 2009 11:27pm]
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