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Family speaks for rage victim

Robert Bruno sat stoically Monday in an orange jail jumpsuit while the family of the man he killed in a road rage incident finally got to tell the judge what sentence to dole out.

Their words left little doubt about how they felt.

During the 20-minute hearing, they called Bruno a "pathetic little coward," an "ultimate loser," a "menace" and "Mr. Stupid." They all asked that Bruno receive life in prison, the maximum sentence in this case.

"I hope you never know a moment of happiness," said Leticia Malagon, the mother of the man Bruno killed. ". . . I hope you burn in hell."

A jury convicted Bruno last month of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Largo resident Fernando Malagon in August 2000. Prosecutors argued at the trial that Bruno, 34, grew furious when Malagon, 37, cut him off in traffic.

Bruno pursued Malagon to Memorial Highway and Interstate 275, the prosecutor said, where both cars stopped and Bruno shot Malagon in the back of the head with a .45-caliber handgun. When shot, Malagon was unarmed and still restrained by his seat belt.

Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett was scheduled to sentence Bruno on Monday, but the pretrial sentencing report was not completed. Padgett delayed the sentencing until April 14. He allowed Malagon's family to make statements, which is standard practice at sentencing hearings.

Bruno's family and friends in the courtroom were offered the same opportunity. His lawyer, Eric Kuske, decided to wait until the actual sentencing.

Malagon's family cited Bruno's 13 previous arrests as reason to lock him up for the rest of his life. In one previous incident, Bruno was given a suspended sentence after pulling a gun on a person but not firing it.

Victor Malagon, the victim's brother, called Bruno a "sad excuse of a man."

"This misfit has added nothing to this society," he said.

Several times, Edward Malagon, another brother, referred to Bruno as a "zero." He said a life sentence would not give him closure, "just justice."

Padgett leaned forward in his chair, fingers interlocked, as he listened to the family members. Several Malagon family supporters wiped away tears. A few students on a courthouse field trip gasped as they listened to Malagon's family attack Bruno.

"I want him to know the pain that he caused," said Malagon's sister, also named Leticia.

_ Graham Brink can be reached at (813) 226-3365 or brinksptimes.com.

Fernando Malagon, 37, left, was unarmed and restrained by his seat belt when he was killed in 2000. Robert Bruno, 34, convicted in the slaying, was to be sentenced Monday, but it was delayed until April 14.

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