Judge refuses to lower Michael Drejka’s $100,000 bail

Published August 23 2018
Updated August 23 2018

LARGO — The court hearing was to consider a lower bail for Michael Drejka, the man who shot Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot.

But the drama that unfolded Thursday felt more like a trial.

Prosecutors pulled out the surveillance video that captured the shooting. They recounted past accusations of Drejka’s aggression. They spoke out against some of the sheriff’s reasoning in deciding not to arrest Drejka. And they questioned whether Drejka was okay with some of the conduct by two of his lawyers.

A defense attorney for Drejka, noting to the judge in an objection that the event had gone way beyond the parameters of a bail hearing, argued his client poses no flight risk, can’t afford the $100,000 bail, has no criminal history and hasn’t used the national platform that sprouted from the shooting to his advantage, saying that "speaks volumes about his character."

Ultimately, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone refused to reduce the bail. But the hearing gave a glimpse into arguments on each side and into the shooter himself, who hasn’t spoken publicly since the July 19 incident. He sat beside his three-attorney team in orange jail scrubs, periodically taking notes.

"We knew that we would likely be denied, but we had to try," his family said in a statement .

A lawyer for McGlockton’s family said family members are "grateful that justice seems to be moving in the right direction."

READ ABOUT THE MOTION: Lawyer uses sheriff’s words to seek bail reduction for parking lot shooter.

Drejka, 48, shot McGlockton, 28, at the Circle A Food Store near Clearwater. Drejka had confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about why she had parked in a handicap-reserved space without a permit.

McGlockton walked outside and shoved Drejka to the ground. Drejka then took out a Glock .40-caliber handgun and shot McGlockton in the chest.

The case reignited a debate over Florida’s stand your ground law after Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said his agency was precluded from arresting Drejka because of the law. The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office charged Drejka on Aug. 13 with manslaughter, which could mean up to 30 years in prison.

In a motion last week , Drejka’s lawyers invoked the sheriff’s words, saying he "stated that Mr. Drejka ... was in fear of his life and that the stand your ground defense applied."

During Thursday’s hearing, assistant state attorney Scott Rosenwasser said the sheriff’s explanation wasn’t complete and included inaccurate information.

"The sheriff’s personal opinion about what he believes happened in this case isn’t relevant," Rosenwasser said.

For one, he said, McGlockton was more than a few feet away — as Gualtieri said — when Drejka fired. Rosenwasser also played a slowed-down version of the video to underscore that McGlockton was backing up and turning his body away from Drejka in the seconds before he pulled the trigger. That’s bolstered by the autopsy, Rosenwasser said, which shows the bullet entering through the left side of McGlockton’s body and lodging beneath his right armpit.

Those details point to the fact that Drejka’s fear wasn’t reasonable, as required to gain immunity under stand your ground.

A second prosecutor, Fred Schaub, went on to address Drejka’s history, including three instances of road rage documented by law enforcement in 2012 and 2013, two of which include accusations that he showed a gun. A fourth is based on an account from a man who said Drejka threatened to shoot him during a fight over the same parking space a few months ago.

"That shows that he’s a danger," Schaub said.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Records show road rage, gun threats in stand your ground shooter’s past.

The narrative sparked an unsuccessful objection from defense attorney John Trevena, who called it "lengthy hearsay."

Trevena said the prior incidents are "fictional accounts by publicity seekers in the community," despite the fact that three were documented by police years before the shooting.

He challenged the notion that the sheriff’s opinion was personal and argued the court should take it into consideration.

"Clearly that’s the sheriff’s professional opinion," Trevena said. "He’s the sheriff."

Unlike Schaub’s argument that there were no significant physical differences between the two men, Trevena said Drejka stopped working as a tree trimmer a decade ago because he was physically unable. His wife of eight years works full-time, but can’t afford the bail, he said.

In showing partial video of the incident, prosecutors left out the "violent shove the alleged victim did to Mr. Drejka prior to this shooting." And testimony and other evidence show there was no retreat, Trevena said, particularly when it comes to Drejka’s perception of events.

"You can try to put lipstick on a pig in this case," Trevena said, "but the state is not going to be able to stop those facts from coming out."

ORIGINAL STORY: No arrest in fatal shooting during argument over handicap parking space

DOUBLING DOWN: Sheriff Gualtieri defends ‘stand your ground’ decision in convenience store shooting

The hearing took a twist toward the end when Schaub raised questions about two of the three lawyers representing Drejka. He showed Bulone a Facebook status from Pinellas Park attorney Lysa Clifton asking for help from other criminal defense attorneys to represent Drejka because she "sure ain’t qualified for this s--- show."

Schaub also brought a copy of a Wild 94.1 radio interview with Bryant Camareno to talk about the shooting. During the interview, recorded before Camareno took on Drejka’s case, the lawyer questioned why Drejka pulled the trigger when it appeared McGlockton was backing up.

Schaub said he brought up the issues as a precaution to ensure Drejka was aware of any potential conflicts.

When Bulone asked if Drejka was satisfied with his representation, Drejka replied, "Yes, sir."

Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or [email protected] Follow @kathrynvarn.