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Wiregrass Ranch developer arrested after fight with girlfriend

Prominent developer J.D. Porter was arrested earlier this month after deputies say he spit tobacco juice on his girlfriend, set a pile of her clothes on fire and shattered the rear window of her car with a barrel.

Porter's girlfriend is Maridy Gregory, the sister-in-law of Sheriff Chris Nocco. According to an arrest report from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, the two had been dating for a year and she had been staying at Porter's Dade City home for about six months.

Gregory, 30, told deputies she had returned with Porter to his house early in the morning on July 4 after having a few drinks at the Shops at Wiregrass, part of the mega-development owned by the Porter family. Porter, 33, fell asleep on the porch. Gregory looked at his phone and discovered a text message from another woman. She threw the phone on the ground. After Porter woke up, she confronted Porter and began walking toward her car.

She said Porter followed her and shoved her in the back. He spit in her face and threw chewing tobacco on her shirt, the arrest report said. Gregory went inside the house, gathered some clothes and went back to her car. The report said Porter came out shortly afterward with another pile of her clothes and set them on fire in the driveway.

Gregory told deputies she left the house but quickly returned because she had been drinking and did not want to drive. The two continued arguing, and Porter spit on her again and held her against the car, the report said. After he let her go a few seconds later, she got back in her car to leave again. Authorities said Porter then picked up a large barrel and broke the rear window of her Mercedes, causing an estimated $1,500 in damage. She drove to the home of Porter's father in the same subdivision.

In an interview with deputies, Porter acknowledged the argument but said he couldn't remember what it was about. He denied pushing, hitting or spitting on Gregory. He also denied setting fire to Gregory's clothes. When a deputy asked how the rear window of her car was shattered, he said he threw a water bottle at the car but did not intend to break the window. Asked how a water bottle could cause that much damage, Porter "stated it was a big water bottle."

Porter was arrested on a felony charge of criminal mischief and a misdemeanor domestic battery charge. He was released from the Pasco County jail July 5 on $6,500 bail. He did not return messages seeking comment.

Porter's family owns the Wiregrass Ranch development that is the site of the Shops at Wiregrass and the new Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel. It will also be the site of the planned expansion of Raymond James Financial and a planned campus of Pasco-Hernando Community College. He is on the board of directors for the fundraising arms of both the college and the hospital. County commissioners have also approved spending $14 million in hotel and sales taxes on a sports complex in the development. The Porters and county officials are still negotiating the terms of the final agreement.

In April, Porter donated $500 to Nocco's re-election campaign. The sheriff said that makes no difference in how Porter is treated by his agency.

Said Nocco: "It's an unfortunate incident. It just shows that domestic violence is alive and well in our community."

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

Wiregrass Ranch developer arrested after fight with girlfriend 07/17/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 8:14pm]
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