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Bar patron fesses up in melee at Hilltop

Published Oct. 6, 2005

A man has confessed to striking Hernando County Commissioner John Richardson on the head with a bar stool on Feb. 8. But the man said he didn't mean to do it.

LeRoy Moore Jr., 22, of Brooksville said he saw another patron pick up a chair during a scuffle that Richardson was involved in at Miss Kitty's Hilltop Lounge in Brooksville.

Moore said he was afraid the man would hit Moore or his friend, Bruce Abney, so he grabbed a bar stool and took a swing. Instead, the blow caught the commissioner and sent him to the hospital.

"I hit the commissioner," Moore said in a written statement last week to police. "I was not aiming for him, but he was the one I hit."

He confirmed his responsibility in an interview Tuesday.

Police spent two weeks trying to figure out who was responsible for injuring Richardson. Now that they have, it will be up to prosecutors to decide what to do with the case.

Moore is claiming he acted in self-defense. If he did, that would undermine a case against him, said Assistant State Attorney Rita Battista.

But Battista pointed out that Moore has already changed his story once and said he may have a credibility problem. Battista said she had conducted interviews with people at the bar that night and still has more people to talk to. She expected a decision by Friday on whether to file charges.

Originally, Moore told police he was outside the bar when Richardson got hit. "When I came in, the commissioner was lying on the floor," Moore wrote in a Feb. 11 statement for police.

Then he changed his story.

In a Feb. 22 statment, he said he was alarmed when he saw a patron named Mike DeHart pick up a chair as Richardson and Abney scuffled on the floor. "Mike picked up a chair first, then I picked one up," Moore wrote. "I felt I acted in self-defense.

"I swung the bar stool," he wrote. "I did what I thought I had to do. Bruce and the commissioner were between me and Mike when I swung."

Moore, a heavy-equipment operator, said he confessed to delivering the blow because his conscience was a "little bothered," plus he figured the information would come out anyway.

He said he had nothing against the commissioner and didn't realize who he had hit until reading about the fight in the newspaper.