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Judge cites his own errors in rejecting guilty verdict

It took jurors six hours to convict 20-year-old George Timmons of killing two teen-agers when he broadsided their car last December. It took the judge a week to decide the jury was wrong.

On Monday, Circuit Judge Richard A. Lazzara threw out the guilty verdicts and ordered a new trial.

In his ruling, Lazzara said he mistakenly allowed errors in questioning, testimony and jury instructions that may have swayed the jury's decision and deprived Timmons of a fair trial.

"It's a tremendous victory," Timmons' attorney, Paul Duval Johnson, said. "He did what was just and proper. I can't ask for anything more in a judge."

Timmons, who was convicted of two counts of vehicular homicide in September, will get a new trial date Nov. 5. The state may appeal the judge's decision.

"It's a travesty to allow a new trial," said Joe Scaglione, whose 18-year-old daughter died in the crash. "My daughter is dead, and we have gone through 10 months of hell waiting for a fair trial."

Timmons was headed to the Rocky Horror Picture Show last December when he slammed into a red Mitsubishi at Fowler Avenue and 50th Street.

The car's passengers, Andrea Nichole Scaglione and her best friend, Tina DeBoskey, 16, died at the scene.

Jurors acquitted Timmons of two counts each of manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence with serious injuries and culpable negligence.

So in the new trial, Timmons may only be tried on the two counts of vehicular homicide, on which the jury convicted him.

"How much can this legal system expect victims to take?" Scaglione asked. "It's wrong."

This is the first time that Lazzara has granted a new trial. Lazzara, who has spent three years on the circuit bench, is known as a sharp and meticulous judge.

He stayed up until about 11:30 p.m. once researching cases during Timmons' trial, attorneys said. But despite his care, Lazzara decided he had made crucial errors in the case.

Problems began when the state questioned its key witness, Thomas Patrick Glenz. Glenz had slammed into the girls' car seconds after Timmons did, but prosecutors dropped manslaughter charges when Glenz agreed to testify.

Jurors watched as prosecutor Clay Yates offered Glenz immunity in exchange for his testimony. That may have caused jurors to believe that Glenz _ free from fear of prosecution _ had to be telling the truth. Lazzara wrote that it wasn't made clear to the jury that Glenz could, in fact, be prosecuted if he perjured himself.

Secondly, the judge decided it was a mistake not to allow jurors to consider reckless driving as a lesser charge.

The final glitch occurred when the state questioned another witness, Mike Blanchard, about Timmons' speed, the order said. The court mistakenly allowed Blanchard to mention another man's account of the accident _ without having the man present to be questioned.

Lazzara wrote that together the errors "deprived the defendant of a fair trial." He declined to comment further.

Timmons, a Brandon seaman stationed in Jacksonville, will return to Tampa for the hearing.

"We're back to a clean slate," Johnson said.