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Felon has eluded prison, but maybe not much longer, prosecutor says

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 01:07 PM

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Nearly four years have passed since jurors acquitted Brian Gomes of vehicular homicide.

They didn't think there was enough evidence to put him behind the wheel of an SUV that crashed the night of Dec. 3, 2005, along Pickford Street in Spring Hill. The accident killed Gomes' friend Marc Collins.

Jurors nonetheless convicted Gomes of DUI and driving with a suspended or revoked license. He was sentenced to less than a year in jail.

It wasn't his first time being convicted of driving without an active license during the commission of a crime.

When he was 17 years old, Gomes rammed his car into a Hernando County Sheriff's Office vehicle, injuring a deputy, and fled the scene. For those charges, he received 90 days in jail and three years' probation.

That was followed by more DUI convictions, more license suspensions and more jail time. Gomes, however, has successfully avoided being sent to state prison.

Had he not pleaded down from a felony to a misdemeanor three years ago, he would have been eligible for habitual felony offender status. An ensuing felony conviction would have resulted in life in prison.

As it currently stands, the 30-year-old felon could still be put away for the better part of his life. In March, he was arrested on five drug charges in three separate cases. The charges include trafficking oxycodone and selling a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school.

Gomes' home at 3305 Montano Ave., where the drug activities allegedly took place, is in proximity to Springstead High School.

Prosecutor Rob Lewis said he hopes Gomes' luck has run out.

"Based on his history, he fits the criteria for prosecution by our career criminal unit," said Lewis.

If convicted of one of his trafficking or drug sales charges, he could face up to 30 years in prison, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Gomes' attorney, Chip Mandel, declined to comment for this story.

In the 2005 vehicular homicide case, Gomes all along denied he was the driver.

During a deposition a year or so before the trial, the lead investigator in the case said Collins' body was partially ejected from the vehicle, which was lying upside down along the street.

The SUV crashed and flipped over because the driver was trying to get away from a pursuing deputy who had just activated his emergency lights and was trying to catch up to the careless driver, said trooper Earl Frazier, the homicide investigator with the Florida Highway Patrol.

The getaway vehicle smashed into a mailbox and power pole before crashing into a concrete culvert, which caused the SUV to tip over, according to court testimony.

Blood splatter was discovered in the inside of the SUV, mostly in the vicinity of the driver's seat.

Gomes, who refused to speak with Frazier at the scene, was bleeding from his head, and his shirt was soaked with blood, according to court transcripts.

By comparison, Collins was "absent of blood" aside from "a trickle" along his face, the investigator said.

At his trial, Gomes faced three felonies and a potential life sentence. Jurors deliberated for four hours and returned with convictions on two misdemeanors.

It was a result that startled the State Attorney's Office and the judge.

Jurors didn't think there was enough evidence to convict Gomes of the homicide charge, but the criteria for a DUI or driving on a suspended license conviction includes proving the suspect was the one behind the wheel.

After it was read, Circuit Judge Jack Springstead called the verdict "a little out of left field," according to news reports. (352) 544-5283

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