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No deals here _ and no explanations

Good luck getting a good deal in Citrus County court these days. Or a mediocre deal. Or even a lousy deal.

County Judge Gary Graham doesn't seem to be taking any plea deals at all.

Monday, the judge rejected at least 17 such offers for people accused of misdemeanor and traffic offenses.

He offered no reasons or explanations for the sudden about-face in policy.

All of the cases now are set for trial Oct. 26.

"He's never rejected them (plea deals) en masse before," Assistant State Attorney Liz Osmond said.

Plea bargains are a fact of life in most courts, including Graham's. The state and defense discuss the facts of a case and decide on a fair punishment.

The judge then accepts or rejects the deal based on his understanding of the facts, the defendant's prior criminal record, the victim's input, and several other factors.

Graham is usually tough on lawyers and will not rubber stamp plea bargains.

Still, Osmond and some defense lawyers who practice in Graham's court say they are confused.

"They were all fair pleas," she said, adding that many of the deals called for jail time.

Public Defender Skip Babb isn't taking the change lightly. If Graham continues at this pace, he said, his office could be representing 60 clients at trials later this month.