CLEARWATER — Anthony James Roy was facing a first-degree murder charge, looking at life in prison.
But if he had the right jury, if he could tell people about the man he killed — this homeless guy who had hung out in his back yard for two years, smoking dope and selling drugs, how the guy had waved guns in his face and threatened his wife — maybe he could convince them the shooting was in self-defense.
And he could get out of jail.
For months, Roy, 51, thought about the gamble of taking his case to trial.
He shared his story with the Tampa Bay Times last year.
He wanted people to know he had asked police for help, tried to get rid of the guy, hid in his own house. He wanted to explain why, on that hot July night in 2016, he followed Bernard Antonio Richards across the street, into the parking lot of the Stop-N-Shop convenience mart in Clearwater, and shot him 17 times — then kicked him in the head.
"The dude pushed me and pushed and pushed until it happened," Roy said. "I thought I was going to be the one who got shot that day."
Prosecutors had offered a plea deal of 25 years. But to Roy, that felt like a death sentence.
Then, a few weeks ago, his lawyer came back with news: The state had agreed to drop the minimum mandatory sentence and cut the plea to 20 years. After serving 85 percent of that, and with credit for the time he has been behind bars, he could be out in 15. "It's a good deal," attorney Lee Pearlman told Roy. Even if a jury decided the slaying wasn't premeditated, and dropped the charge to manslaughter, he would have to serve at least that much time.
Roy's mother, Patricia Roy, sold the house he had lived in to pay legal fees. She and Roy's aunt and cousin all told him to take the plea, not risk a trial. His wife, Irene Quarles, said it was his call — his life. Roy said he wanted to be vindicated. "I'm the victim here," he kept saying. "What happened to me could happen to anyone."
But on Friday morning, in a Pinellas County courtroom, Roy stood before Judge Nancy Moate Ley and wavered.
He talked to his attorney. Pearlman said Roy wouldn't get another chance at this offer.
They left the court to confer for a half-hour.
Even after they returned, Roy hesitated.
But he took the deal.
Contact Lane DeGregory at email@example.com. Follow @LaneDeGregory.