BROOKSVILLE — Former Brooksville police Detective Shawn Terry was acquitted on perjury charges Tuesday night after prosecutors failed to convince a jury that he urged an informant to lie in a drug case and then lied in a deposition for the same case.
Terry, 33, nodded his head once as the verdicts were read. His wife, Marcy, pregnant with the couple's third child, broke down in tears.
After the verdict, Terry said the case was based on a desire for revenge by State Attorney Brad King and Assistant State Attorney Don Barbee, who heads the Brooksville office.
Terry said the charges came not long after he had pointed encounters with both men over an unrelated case.
"Nobody ever came to the State Attorney's Office and filed a complaint that I lied," Terry said. "This is completely derived from the State Attorney's Office. I was in a meeting with Brad King, and I chastised him and embarrassed him. I fought for justice for one of my victims, and he didn't like it. I did the same thing in a meeting with Don Barbee, fought for my victim, and he didn't like it. I'm embarrassed for them."
The six-member jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before returning its verdict. Juror Janice Combs, 59, of Spring Hill said it didn't take long for all the jurors to agree: "We had lots of reasonable doubt."
The state's chief witness, Michael Blue, "was not credible," Combs said.
Blue, a 20-year-old roofer who was working as an informant for the department, told jurors Monday that he did it to avoid drug charges of his own, and that Terry encouraged him to lie to attorneys during the deposition because the State Attorney's Office doesn't like it if informants are "working off a charge."
Blue said he suggested to Terry another story: He would say he volunteered to help 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.
During his own deposition, Terry told attorneys that Blue was not under investigation or in danger of arrest but knew that was false, Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway told the jury during closing arguments Tuesday.
Terry and Brooksville police Lt. Rick Hankins went to the Village Green apartment complex in October 2009 looking for Blue because they suspected he was selling prescription pills, prosecutors said.
At least three people who were at the apartment that morning testified Monday that Hankins and Terry came to the door, guns drawn, asking for Blue. Ridgway pointed out that Terry said in a deposition later that Hankins came to him that morning saying they were going "to talk this kid Blue."
They didn't find pills, but they did find a small amount of marijuana. That was enough to hold over Blue's head to get him to work as an informant, Ridgway said, so they had him carry a tiny camera to South Brooksville to record himself buying crack cocaine.
In his first attempt, Blue failed to capture the transaction on camera but did record the seller's face. Hankins and Terry wanted to make the case anyway, with Blue as their witness. That gave Terry the motive to lie about why Blue was working for them, Ridgway said.
"Michael Blue's credibility has to be bolstered to make this case," Ridgway said. "He's got to be just a good citizen."
The State Attorney's Office grew suspicious after the depositions and brought in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The department recorded two calls between Blue and Terry. In both, Blue told Terry he had been called back for another deposition and was worried.
"I told you not to lie," Terry said. "If you lied, you made a mistake, that's the bottom line."
That Terry brought up the prospect of lying first during the call was an indication he knew officials were on to his lies, FDLE supervisor Robert Ura testified Tuesday.
The recorded phone calls did not sway the jurors, Combs said. "They did not prove what the prosecution was trying to get them to prove," she said.
Hankins and police Chief George Turner testified that Terry came to them upset that day, suspecting prosecutors were investigating him.
Terry's attorney, Ellis Faught, painted Blue as a dishonest drug dealer who wanted to ingratiate himself with the police, a liar who knew he wouldn't be arrested for the marijuana possession, and who got paid $60 for his work as an informant.
He pointed to Hankins' testimony that they didn't go to the apartment to investigate Blue, only to canvass the neighborhood after getting complaints of drug sales. Hankins said Blue boasted about all the drug dealers he knew.
Faught noted Blue was hesitant or unable to answer basic questions and was caught in at least two lies during the trial. "His lies and his conniving have caused a lot of problems for a lot of people," Faught told the jury.
The state couldn't prove that Terry knew he was being recorded during the calls with Blue. "They were trying to entrap Shawn Terry, but it did not work," Faught said.
Terry resigned from the Brooksville Police Department the day before he was arrested in July.
If convicted of felony perjury, Terry faced up to 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.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.