BROOKSVILLE — Michael Blue's voice wavered as he sat on the stand Monday morning and offered his account of a conversation he had last year with then-Brooksville police Detective Shawn Terry.
It was June 3, and the two men were at the Hernando County Courthouse, just about to be deposed in a drug case. Blue was working as an informant for the department, buying drugs in south Brooksville and recording the transactions with a tiny camera.
He told jurors Monday he did it to avoid drug charges of his own, and that Terry encouraged him to lie to prosecutors that day because the State Attorney doesn't like it if informants are "working off a charge."
Blue said he suggested another story: He volunteered to help police after his stepmother, who worked in the Hernando Sheriff's Office, told him that the department pays informants' cell phone bills.
"He said, 'That's good, say that,' " Blue said Terry replied.
When asked by prosecutors that day if Blue was a suspect or "in danger of arrest," Terry said no. Suspicious, prosecutors called Blue back a week later. They offered him immunity, and he said he lied.
Terry, 33, was arrested a few weeks later on one count of perjury in an official proceeding and one count of solicitation to commit perjury. His trial got under way Monday.
Terry resigned from the department in July, the day before his arrest.
Dressed in a gray suit, Terry listened intently to testimony on Monday. He appeared relaxed, laughing during jury selection when Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Jr. joked with a potential juror who struggled to remember how long he'd been married.
Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway recounted the state's version of how Blue came to be an informant.
He was living in the Village Green apartments when Terry and his supervisor, Lt. Rick Hankins, went to the apartment in October 2009 looking for prescription pills. Blue testified that he had 100 Xanax pills the night before but sold some and gave some away.
But Hankins and Terry did find a small amount of marijuana, and they offered Blue a chance to make the charge go away by working as an informant, Ridgway told the jury.
"They asked me, "What do I want to do about the weed,' " Blue recalled. "I said, 'What do you want to me do about the weed, sir?' "
Blue, 20, said he tried and failed to arrange a large-quantity marijuana purchase. So Terry and Hankins had Blue drive to south Brooksville and use a camera the size of a key fob to record people selling him crack cocaine.
"He did what he felt he had to do to avoid going to jail," Ridgway told the seven jurors.
Not so, said Ellis Faught, Terry's attorney. When Terry and Hankins showed up to Blue's apartment, they made it clear they weren't interested in arresting people for marijuana, just pills, Faught said — an assertion corroborated Monday by two other teens who were there that morning. Blue wanted to work with the department and volunteered information about drug dealers he knew, Faught said.
Terry never opened a case file on Blue's marijuana possession, indicating he was never in danger of arrest, Faught said. His contract as a confidential informant notes him as "protected," not "criminal," Faught noted.
Blue lied to prosecutors the second time around, Faught said.
"The truth was told … seven days earlier, but (prosecutors) didn't want to hear that," he said. "So Michael Blue had to come up with an excuse."
The trial resumes today. If convicted of felony perjury, Terry could get five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The solicitation to commit perjury charge, a misdemeanor, carries a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Over his 10-year career in local law enforcement, mostly spent with the Brooksville Police Department and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, Terry has been the subject of 30 complaints and investigations, and eight reprimands. His disciplinary record was the worst at the Brooksville Police Department.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.