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Jury finds Hicks guilty of fleeing and eluding

Hernando Today

Published:   |   Updated: June 19, 2013 at 02:25 AM

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BROOKSVILLE - A six-member jury found Johnathan Lee Hicks guilty of fleeing and eluding law enforcement, driving with a suspended or revoked license (habitual offender) and escape or attempting to escape law enforcement.

When sentenced next month, Hicks faces up to 70 years in prison because of his status as a habitual re-offender.

The trial was brief, with jurors selected Monday, witness testimony Tuesday morning and a verdict rendered early Tuesday afternoon. Jurors viewed dashboard video camera footage, courtroom footage and testimony from law enforcement officers.

The first two charges against Hicks stem from an Aug. 18, 2012 incident. Michael Williams, then an officer with the Brooksville Police Department, was on patrol when he saw Hicks driving a blue Chevy Impala without wearing a seatbelt.

Williams testified that he activated his cruiser's lights, then sirens. Instead of pulling over, Hicks ran a red light and sped down Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Williams said he stopped following Williams because of the department's policy of not chasing traffic offenders. A short while later, Williams spotted Hicks on foot and took him into custody.

The third charge - escaping or attempting to escape - followed about a month later. Hicks, who was supposed to appear in court on Sept. 11 for the fleeing incident, told Judge Daniel Merritt Jr. in a hearing on Sept. 20 that he had confused the date, and had not received a notice in the mail. Merritt, who learned that a notice had been sent to Hicks' address, as well as the address of his bail bonds office, decided to double Hicks' bond.

In the courtroom footage, Hicks explained to Merritt that he had just found work and gotten his son back. Hicks asked for another court date but Merritt ordered Hicks taken into custody so the bond could be doubled.

Hicks sprinted out of the courtroom and down the courthouse steps, ultimately fleeing the bailiff, Deputy James Manners, who chased him.

The Sheriff's Office picked up Hicks on Oct. 2 at his Brooksville address. He has since been held on no bond at the Hernando County Jail.

Hicks' defense attorney Ed Mills attempted to dismiss the escaping charge, arguing Hicks was not in custody when he ran out of the courthouse.

"I did not touch him at any point ... I never had control of him," Manners said.

Mills also questioned how the state could prove Hicks knew the Brooksville Police officer was chasing him.

"Well, he turned his lights on, he turned his siren on," Assistant State Attorney Sonny McCathran said, adding Hicks ran a red light and didn't pull over.

"We have to be shown by his actions," McCathran said.

Florida Department of Corrections records show Hicks has been incarcerated three times since 2006.

Prison records show Hicks was incarcerated from December 2006 to June 2007, from December 2007 to November 2008 and from May 2011 to June 2012. Charges included grand theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing to elude law enforcement and driving with a suspended license

Charges of the three sentences included two grand theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing to elude law enforcement and felony driving with a license suspended or revoked.

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