William "Dave" Newman couldn't hide his elation and relief Wednesday night.
Moments after a jury convicted one of three men who beat, shot, bound, gagged and robbed him at his Darby home, Newman had a huge hug waiting for prosecutor Manny Garcia.
His face red with emotion, fighting back tears, Newman's burly frame swallowed up the prosecutor.
"You are a bona fide star," Newman told Garcia. "You are the man."
Inside the courtroom, jurors had just convicted Aledward Robertson, 28, of Auburndale of attempted armed robbery, armed burglary, kidnapping and aggravated battery. At Friday's sentencing, Robertson faces life in prison.
Robertson denied taking any part in the June 16 ambush at Newman's home.
He even tried pleading directly with Newman during a courtroom break, turning to him and mouthing, "I don't know you. Look at my face."
But Newman, a 59-year-old auctioneer, insisted that Robertson's face _ and his mouth full of gold teeth _ were burned into his memory.
Robertson was one of at least three men who lay in wait for Newman to finish mowing his lawn on Father's Day. They jumped him, slugged him with a gun barrel and a sledgehammer, tied him to a tractor, shot him in the leg, threatened to kill him and his wife and and gagged him while they went into his house in search of cash.
Newman broke free, grabbed a pistol stashed in his barn and frightened off Robertson. He telephoned family for help, and son-in-law Martin Harm answered the call armed with his own pistol, exchanging gunfire with the robbers until they fled.
Robertson's appointed attorney, A.J. Ivie, argued in closing that there was no evidence _ other than Newman's account _ that Robertson was there.
Robertson was arrested a day later wandering a nearby highway. He was dirty and covered in scratches, but Ivie said Newman mistakenly identified the wrong man.
As the verdict was read, Robertson bowed his head and hunched over the defense table.
Newman predicted more arrests. At least one robber got away, and Newman and Sheriff's Office investigators believe there may be
a mastermind behind the scenes. Newman said the conviction is the key to unraveling the conspiracy.
The attack, he said, changed his life and that of his rural neighbors. People lock their doors now. Newman carries a gun and bought a guard dog, and he never keeps cash at his house, he said.
A second suspect, Wilford Stanley Washington, 29, of De Soto County, was captured near Newman's home shortly after the attack by deputies working with a tracking dog. He is awaiting trial.