John Barry, Times Staff Writer

John Barry

John Barry writes about criminal cases in Hillsborough County Circuit Court. He has been with the St. Petersburg Times since 2002. Before that, he was a feature writer for the Miami Herald. He has a daughter, Sarah, who is also a writer.

Phone: (727) 892-2258


  1. Bubba the Love Sponge testifies in defamation lawsuit


    TAMPA — The radio world that Todd Clem described to a jury Wednesday is a make-believe one made up of fictitious alter egos. On radio, he is not Todd Clem. He is Bubba the Love Sponge. His fans are the make-believe "Bubba's Army." He is their "six-star general."

    In his "radio war" waged against a rival morning show host, Clem said he attacked only the alter ego, MJ Kelli. He said he never attacked the man, Todd Schnitt....

    Todd “MJ” Schnitt, left, and his wife, Michelle, talk to their attorney as testimony begins in their defamation case.
  2. Jury seated in Bubba the Love Sponge, Todd 'MJ' Schnitt trial


    TAMPA — Six jurors and four alternates were chosen Tuesday evening for the civil trial of Bubba the Love Sponge, accused of defaming his longtime morning radio rival, Todd "MJ" Schnitt.

    A jury was selected from a pool of 48 after they were asked all day how they felt about bullying, about damage to reputations and about famous media feuds, including that of Jay Leno and David Letterman....

  3. Shoplifter gets five years in death of Target guard


    TAMPA — A shoplifter charged with third-degree murder after a 65-year-old Target security officer he struggled with suffered a fatal heart attack pleaded guilty today and was sentenced to five years in prison.

    Mervin Bettis, 36, described by his family as a compulsive shoplifter, said nothing before his sentence. On May 27, 2011, he was caught leaving a Target store on Hillsborough Avenue with $1,100 worth of razor blade cartridges he hadn't paid for....

  4. Hillsborough court braces for crush of potential jurors Monday


    TAMPA — Round up extra folding chairs and order more pickles for Cuban sandwiches at the courthouse snack bar. Chairs, pickles and patience could be in short supply today when almost a thousand people are expected for jury duty.

    Three major trials starting at the same time have caused the jury services office to mail out 3,300 jury summonses, about 1,000 more than usual. Because only a quarter of those who receive summonses actually show up, the Hillsborough County Courthouse expects to play host to about 900....

  5. Tampa judge sentences misbehaving juror to more jury service


    TAMPA — Confronted Friday with an errant yet remorseful juror whose misbehavior could have ruined a death-penalty murder trial, a judge chose a punishment that fit the crime.

    But it could be argued that the judge's order for the offender — report for jury duty one week a month for the next three months — was a more cruel punishment than jail.

    Back in October, would-be juror Vishnu P. Singh was caught researching a highly publicized murder case during jury selection. Over lunch, he told other jurors what he'd done. One of them reported him....

  6. Bubba the Love Sponge, Todd 'MJ' Schnitt square off in bad-boy radio trial


    TAMPA — For the next three weeks, a Hillsborough County courtroom will host a surreal medley of bad-boy radio's greatest hits: a turkey fire, a swine slaughter, "whore scores," Bubba's Army and a bald Britney Spears on billboards.

    A strange cavalcade of stars will be on parade as well. Witness lists include dozens of media personalities — including disgraced former Tribune Co. chief executive Randy Michaels — plus a Tampa breast implant surgeon, Hills­borough's top prosecutor, and assorted radio characters with such names as Jabberjaw, Cowhead and 25 Cent....

  7. Lakeland man convicted in 2011 Ybor City bus rape


    TAMPA — Charles Newbold told a jury Thursday he was a ladies man whose charms were often irresistible.

    Jurors decided Newbold, an 11-time felon from Lakeland, was a rapist who attacked a 24-year-old marketing major in Ybor City in 2011 in a 1970s school bus she had converted into a home.

    After Newbold's conviction for sexual battery, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe sentenced him to life in prison....

  8. Testimony begins in trial of 2011 Ybor City bus rape


    TAMPA — The funky 1970s school bus converted into a cozy home in Ybor City was a 24-year-old marketing graduate's strategy for attracting advertisers to her website.

    But in May 2011, the bus she and her father had painted white and refurbished attracted an intruder who choked and raped her, the woman told a jury Wednesday.

    Fighting back tears but describing her ordeal in detail, she identified her attacker as Charles Newbold, 30, of Lakeland. He is standing trial on charges of burglary and sexual battery....

  9. Judge denies motion for mistrial in Trevor Dooley case


    TAMPA — A TV microphone on the defense table compromised the trial of 71-year-old Trevor Dooley when he was convicted of manslaughter eight weeks ago, his attorney argued Thursday, asking a judge to declare a mistrial.

    Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody rejected the defense motion, telling Dooley to report for sentencing on Jan. 17. The former school bus driver, who said nothing during the hearing, faces up to 30 years in prison for the 2010 fatal shooting of his 41-year-old Valrico neighbor, David James....

    Trevor Dooley listens in court on Thursday. The former school bus driver is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17 for the killing of his neighbor, David James, 41, in 2010.
  10. After murder trial delay, Hillsborough judge threatens to jail lawyers


    TAMPA — A circuit judge erupted Wednesday when he discovered a trial for the first-degree murder of a toddler two years ago faced an indefinite delay after a top lawyer for the Public Defender's Office resigned, got fired and is getting married all at the same time.

    Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe said the case was among his top priorities this year and he has laid awake at night concerned about its complexities. It involves Justin Garwacki, 28, and his girlfriend, Kara O'Connell, 23, both charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse....

  11. At Tampa's Berkeley Prep, prominent lawyer and headmaster quarrel over security


    TAMPA — It's not easy to jolt Tampa's sedately exclusive Berkeley Preparatory School, but lawyer Barry Cohen managed this week with emails he sent to the headmaster and parents questioning safety policies in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre.

    "We no longer have the luxury of trying to balance what's reasonable and what's not reasonable at the expense of compromise," wrote Cohen, whose 11-year-old son, Barry, attends Berkeley. "… What we want is to deter and make damn sure we stop any misfit from trying to kill our children like what happened at Sandy Hook."...

  12. Plant City man found guilty of second-degree murder in wife's death


    TAMPA — The family of Beatrice Dickey was disappointed Wednesday when her husband, Lawrence Dickey, was convicted of only second-degree murder for fatally clubbing her with a bat, but her oldest son said jurors didn't know Lawrence Dickey like they did.

    "He was drunk every day," said Matt Kirkland, 22. "He'd get drunk and go crazy. I'd come home from college as much as possible because I worried about my mother."...

    Lawrence Dickey is led out of the courtroom Wednesday afternoon following the reading of the verdict. Dickey was found guilty of second-degree murder for killing his wife with a bat.
  13. Children testify in trial of Plant City man accused of killing wife with bat



    Lawrence Dickey told a jury Tuesday he was too drunk to remember fatally clubbing his wife with an aluminum bat in their bedroom.

    But his young children remember.

    Only days before Christmas, three children of a blended Plant City family marched to the witness stand to describe the violent death last year that blew up their lives.

    "I heard three whacks," said Lawson Dickey, now 13....

  14. Alcohol or drugs may have played role in Plant City wife's 2011 slaying


    TAMPA — Detectives have never offered a reason why a married couple's date night in 2011 ended in violent death in their Plant City bedroom.

    But during jury selection Monday for Lawrence Dickey, 46, charged with first-degree murder of his wife, Beatrice, attorneys hinted that alcohol or drugs played a role.

    Dickey is accused of fatally clubbing his wife with an aluminum baseball bat after returning from a Journey concert to their household full of children....

    Defendant Lawrence Dickey breaks down before jury selection Monday in Tampa.
  15. Jury finds Joseph Frye guilty of raping 75-year-old woman


    TAMPA — The last time Joseph Frye committed rape, he was given 40 years in prison but got out in 19.

    On Wednesday, he was convicted of raping a 75-year-old widow only 27 days after his release in August 2009. This time, a judge vowed that Frye will never go free again.

    "Mr. Frye," said Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe, "you are a predator. You are an animal. I do not desire that you spend one more day of your life as a free person."...