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Former downtown St. Petersburg bar manager pleads guilty in man’s death

Months after a failed stand-your-ground bid, former Hops and Props manager Darren McFarland struck a deal for jail time and probation.
Darren McFarland, a former bar manager at Hops and Props,  is serving a three-month sentence at the Pinellas County jail and faces 10 years of probation after his release, according to court records.
Darren McFarland, a former bar manager at Hops and Props, is serving a three-month sentence at the Pinellas County jail and faces 10 years of probation after his release, according to court records. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Jan. 20|Updated Jan. 20

A former bar manager pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge after he shoved a 63-year-old man outside a downtown St. Petersburg beer garden, causing him to hit his head and later die.

Darren McFarland, 55, was facing up to 15 years of prison time in the death of Bruce Senesac. Instead, he is serving a three-month sentence at the Pinellas County jail and faces 10 years of probation after his release, according to court records. McFarland changed his plea to guilty Dec. 28, two months after his failed bid to obtain immunity from prosecution under Florida’s stand-your-ground self-defense law.

Related: St. Petersburg bar manager invokes stand-your-ground defense after patron’s death

McFarland was the manager at Hops and Props, a bar and restaurant previously located at the entrance to the St. Pete Pier, when Bruce Senesac showed up intoxicated the afternoon of Feb. 2. A bartender asked McFarland to intervene. She said during McFarland’s Oct. 29 stand-your-ground hearing that Senesac had been belligerent during recent visits.

Senesac wouldn’t leave, according to court records, so McFarland took his belongings and put them outside. Senesac followed, and the two came face to face outside the bar.

Senesac ended up on the ground, unconscious. He never woke up. Doctors pronounced him dead Feb. 9. The Pinellas-Pasco medical examiner determined the cause of death as blunt head trauma and the manner as homicide. Senesac’s son declined to comment Wednesday.

McFarland initially told police Senesac fell back and hit his head. He later said he knocked Senesac’s hat off but didn’t touch him, and that he acted in self-defense after Senesac leaned toward McFarland and poked his face.

Pinellas-Pasco Judge Pat Siracusa didn’t buy it. While the judge didn’t elaborate on his decision to strike down McFarland’s stand-your-ground motion, witnesses testified at the hearing that they didn’t see Senesac advance toward McFarland.

McFarland also told a St. Petersburg police detective that Senesac “wasn’t a threat at all.”

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