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Defendant in killing takes deal

Published Oct. 1, 2005

Normally Jimmie Tyson didn't carry a gun. But he borrowed a pistol to help his cousin, Willie Farley, get even with some people who had beaten Farley up.

Before the night was over, a 13-year-old Clearwater boy lay dead and a 15-year-old was wounded. And the bullet that killed Adrian Anderson came from the .38-caliber pistol Tyson carried.

Tyson, Farley and a third man, Hulon Ponder III, were indicted on charges of first-degree murder. Four months ago Farley, 17, of Tarpon Springs pleaded guilty to manslaughter, a deal he made in exchange for a promise to testify against Ponder and Tyson.

Now, despite the fact that he fired the fatal bullet, Tyson has cut a similar deal.

On Tuesday, Tyson, 23, of Safety Harbor, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He agreed to testify against Ponder, 22, of Safety Harbor, who is set for trial next month.

Both Farley and Tyson are scheduled to be sentenced after Ponder's trial. If they do not testify truthfully, their deals are voided.

Farley's deal calls for a sentence of 20 years in prison, which is five years more than the usual maximum sentence for manslaughter. Tyson's sentence would be even longer: 40 years in prison, which is 15 years more than state guidelines call for.

Prosecutors Brian Daniels and David Lichter could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Tyson's attorney, Douglas Prior, said his client had simply been following Ponder's lead in firing at the two boys. And Tyson wouldn't have been involved at all if it hadn't been for Farley, Prior said.

"My client is not a bad person," Prior said. "He just got caught up in this thing, thanks to his cousin. . . . This was out of character for Jimmie."

Prior said Anderson's family had agreed to the plea, too.

Anderson, who was once named Dunedin Highland Middle School's most valuable basketball player, was shot about 11:30 p.m. July 20, 1995, while he was using a pay phone next to Homer Villas on N Betty Lane, a block from his house.

Earlier that day, Farley had been beaten up at a basketball court at Clearwater's Martin Luther King Center. He gathered a group of friends, including Ponder and Tyson. They piled into a car to find and beat up whoever had beaten Farley. Ponder, Tyson and Farley were armed, but Farley's gun didn't work.

Farley saw Anderson and Henderson and recently testified he thought he recognized the shorts Henderson was wearing as belonging to someone who had beaten him up.

Actually, neither teenager had been involved in the fight with Farley.

As Farley and his friends piled out of the car, they began fighting with Anderson and Henderson. One of Farley's friends, David Crump, said that when Anderson tried to flee, "that's when all the shooting started."

He said Ponder shot five times at Anderson and Henderson, until he ran out of bullets.

As Ponder walked away, Crump said, "Jimmy Tyson came out of nowhere. He came shooting. Pow. Pow. Pow. Hit Adrian. Adrian fell. We all got in the car. That was it."

Police said Ponder was carrying a .357-caliber handgun and Tyson a .38-caliber handgun. Henderson was wounded by a .357, but the bullet that hit Anderson in the back was from a .38.

After Ponder was arrested, Clearwater Detective Wilton Lee testified, Ponder told police, "You got the guy who shot that kid. If I should be charged in anything . . . it would be accessory."

Because Tyson fired the fatal bullet, Prior said, a jury might have convicted him of first-degree murder, and he would have spent the rest of his life in prison.

Instead, thanks to his deal with the state, Tyson can expect to be freed by the time he reaches his 60s.

"There's some light at the end of the tunnel," Prior said.