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First a plea, then glee for woman facing life

Annette Roundtree had just been found guilty Wednesday of stabbing her boyfriend to death, but she had a big smile on her face.

A few minutes later, on her way out of the courthouse, she danced.

In exchange for her no contest plea Wednesday to a charge reduced from second-degree murder to manslaughter, Roundtree dodged what could have been a life sentence had she been convicted.

Instead, she has a few weeks to get her affairs in order then will have to serve about nine months in prison.

Roundtree, 41, was arrested Jan. 11, 1998, after she stabbed James "Scarface" Holiday, 45, one time in the chest with a paring knife, killing him. Witnesses said the two had been arguing and drinking.

Her appointed attorney, Bill Eble, said the plea agreement approved by State Attorney Bernie McCabe was a sensible end to an unfortunate situation.

"I commend Mr. McCabe for what I feel was a proper resolution of the case. They really did the right thing. I do think justice was served in this case," Eble said. "Scarface was abusive to every woman in his life."

Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said his office agreed to the reduced sentence after reviewing the facts, questioning witnesses and learning that Holiday had threatened Roundtree, provoking the stabbing.

In depositions and in interviews with news reporters, witnesses said they had seen Holiday beating Roundtree on other occasions. He was nicknamed Scarface from the numerous scars on his body, and Eble said he had been stabbed and shot several times in the past, once by a prior girlfriend.

Roundtree said she still thought the stabbing was self-defense, but she didn't want to risk a trial.

Eble said with her criminal past, any sentence Roundtree received, even if a jury found her guilty of a lesser crime, would have meant years in prison.

Both Roundtree and Holiday have criminal records, according to court records. Holiday had been charged with aggravated battery (spouse), battery, burglary, sexual assault, auto theft, grand theft, domestic battery, larceny, violation of probation and failure to appear, with cases dating back to 1986.

Roundtree's record, dating to 1983, includes arrests on charges of battery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, dealing in stolen property, violation of probation and failure to appear.

In 1993 she pleaded guilty to stabbing her then-husband, James, in the chest during an argument over crack cocaine, records show. He survived, and she was sentenced to six months of house arrest. When she violated that, she was sentenced to two years in prison.

Roundtree said she has cleaned her life up since Holiday's death. She said she is off drugs and alcohol, has found faith in God, and has been caring for two grandchildren. She has been free on $10,000 bail since late 1999 and has not been in trouble since.

When Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb accepted her plea and agreed to give her time to find another relative to care for her grandchildren _ a boy and a girl, both younger than 2 _ she looked skyward and said, "Thank you, Jesus."

Under the agreement, Roundtree is sentenced to three years in prison for manslaughter. She pleaded no contest, but Cobb ruled her guilty. She will have to serve only 85 percent of her sentence, and she gets day-for-day credit for the time she served in jail before she was released on bail.

That leaves about nine months to serve.

"I can do nine months standing on my head," she said.

Her sentencing is scheduled for April 24.