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Victims wary of "gain time' releases

The day her husband was sentenced to 25 years in prison, Tracy Leigh Battles told a judge she would still spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder.

"My whole life is now geared toward the reality that (he) will someday be released and I will have to uproot my two sons again and leave," she said July 28, 1988.

That reality came sooner than she ever imagined.

Rodney "Danny" Battles, who beat and stabbed his estranged wife and threatened to blow up her house, was released March 11 from a state prison in Walton.

Battles, 37, is one of three felons from Pasco County who got a break from a Supreme Court ruling on prison "gain time." He served less than nine years of his original sentence.

"The state took their gain time away, and the Supreme Court said you can't do that," said Assistant State Attorney Michael Halkitis, who prosecuted the case against Battles.

"Today, if you're convicted, you're going to serve 85 percent of your time. These guys were convicted before the law passed."

Along with hundreds of inmates, Battles benefited from a ruling that said the state could not retroactively take away a prisoner's rights to earn gain time, or time off for good behavior.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said Battles gave a Walton County address when he left the prison, which is in Walton County.

Battles has lived in Pinellas and Pasco counties. Under the terms of his probation, Battles cannot have contact with his ex-wife, who could not be reached for this story.

Two other Pasco inmates with violent records have been released since the Supreme Court ruling: Dennis Wille, who served less than half of his 15-year sentence for armed robbery; and Wayne Brlecic, who served 13 years of a 30-year sentence for burglary, aggravated assault and criminal mischief.

Gerald Scott Hale, convicted in the 1985 beating death of a Holiday man, had his release date moved up after the ruling, a DOC spokeswoman said.

He is scheduled to be released June 11. He will have served 12 years of his original 17-year sentence on second-degree murder and escape charges, according to the DOC.

In Battles' case, early release is the opposite of what the judge who sentenced him had wanted.

Convicted of kidnapping, aggravated battery, burglary and improper display of a deadly weapon in the January 1988 attack, Battles received a sentence that went beyond state sentencing guidelines.

"If I can do something to keep you from getting out of prison and possibly coming back to kill your wife, I will do so," Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper told him at the time. "There is no reason for me to believe this could not happen again."

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.

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