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Defendant testifies in attempted murder trial

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Published:   |   Updated: October 16, 2013 at 05:18 PM

BROOKSVILLE - In the early morning of July 3, 2011, Michael Anthony was having a hard time differentiating his hallucinations from reality.

Taking the stand in his own defense on Wednesday afternoon, Anthony, 37, told one of his attorneys, Stephany Espinosa, he thought he had been "running" from "make believe officers, cops and spies" for the two days before law enforcement tried to pull him over in Brooksville for driving the wrong way down Broad Street.

Anthony said the binge started on a Friday afternoon on his way home from work, when he impulsively went to a "bad neighborhood," bought crack cocaine and used an old tire gauge as a pipe to smoke it.

Anthony said he had been clean for "two or three years" at the time, successfully completed a drug rehab program and landed a good job.

"I felt on top of the world, like I beat it," Anthony said, speaking about his addiction.

And when he bought crack cocaine on Friday, July 1, Anthony knew he couldn't go home because his roommate would be disappointed in him.

"Drive was the only option I had - all I did was drive," Anthony said.

For the next two days, Anthony said he drove around north and central Florida, smoking crack until he ran out, then driving back to Ocala to get more. He stopped to get gas, but not to eat.

Anthony remembered at some point seeing more flashing lights and police cruisers behind him, and that a car tried to hit him between five and 10 times before he spun out the first time.

Anthony said the police chase was "chaotic" and "surreal," and that he believed officers were shooting at his car at one point.

Anthony also explained that in his paranoid state, he thought the officers might be trying to slip a camera or other "top secret new gadget" into his passenger door. He also testified his 1991 Honda had a faulty transmission and he didn't like to drive more than 20 or 30 mph around town in it.

During cross-examination, Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto questioned how Anthony's "piece of junk car" reached speeds up to 100 mph, and if Anthony, who has five felonies on his record, knew he was supposed to pull over his car when he was being followed by an officer with lights and sirens on.

As part of the defense's strategy, Anthony admitted to two of the lesser charges: leaving the scene of a crash involving injuries and fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer. Those charges alone could carry a 40-year penalty if Anthony is found guilty as a habitual offender, Catto said.

Jurors also heard an audio interview between Anthony and sheriff's Detective George Loydgren at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, just hours after the crash ended. Anthony said he didn't remember how or why the chase started, and he believed the ordeal took place in Ocala and Jacksonville.

John Murdoch, a Gainesville-based engineer and expert witness for the state, said he believed Sgt. Brandon Ross was driving about 116 mph on the morning of July 3, 2011, when Michael Anthony applied a "quick and sudden bump" to the side of Ross' cruiser.

Ross lost control of his car in the area of U.S. 41 and Ayers Road, hitting parked cars and a power pole near Daylight Donuts.

The chase continued, and Deputy John Mecklenburg lost control of his car just south of County Line Road, hitting a tree and dying from his injuries. Anthony is also facing first-degree murder charges in Pasco County.

The chase ended in Pinellas County, when Anthony crashed off of an I-275 exit.

Jurors are expected to hear closing arguments on Thursday and begin deliberations.

wbiddlecombe@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5283

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