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Attempted homicide defendant offered plea

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:14 PM

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Today is the day Tony Roberts could decide whether to settle for a prison sentence that would lock him away until his mid-30s or roll the dice and take a chance on freedom.

If Roberts chooses the latter, which as of Tuesday was the direction he was leaning, the convicted arsonist could spend the rest of his life behind bars, his attorney said.

Roberts, 20, is accused of shooting Germaine Smiley the morning of May 6, 2010, outside her apartment at 3535 Portillo Road.

Smiley was shot in the back, neck and forehead, but survived.

Ten months after the shooting, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office arrested Roberts.

Detectives said Roberts bragged about the shooting to a fellow inmate at the Hernando County Jail. A second inmate came forward earlier this year and told the sheriff's office he also heard Roberts tell him he shot Smiley, according to reports.

Both inmates are on the witness list. Roberts is scheduled to stand trial Monday, but only if he turns down the offer from the state.

Roberts is scheduled to appear in court today, at which time he could accept the offer of up to 20 years in prison. He could potentially serve about three-quarters of that sentence if he remains on good behavior while in prison, said attorney Jimmy Brown.

"He did not seem really interested in that offer," Brown said.

Brown spoke at length with his client Tuesday in Hernando County Circuit Court. The defendant's motion to suppress his incriminating statements to his fellow inmates was overruled by the judge in the case.

One of the conversations Roberts had with one of the inmates was recorded and jurors will listen to it at trial if Roberts stands his ground and decides not to take the plea offer, according to court records.

"He believes in the judicial system and he believes the jury is going to see he didn't do it," Brown said of his client. "Whoever shot (Ms. Smiley), it wasn't him."

Based on sheriff's reports, someone a couple blocks away from the shooting heard the popping sounds and a short time later saw a pickup traveling south along her street with the headlights off.

She wasn't close enough to give detectives a specific description of the driver, authorities said.

Video surveillance also captured images of the pickup, but again no footage was clear enough to verify whether Roberts was driving it, according to reports.

Detectives suspect Roberts drove his aunt's pickup to the scene. They also suspect Roberts' aunt hired him to shoot Smiley.

Roberts thus far has been the only person arrested in the case. If tried and convicted of first-degree attempted murder, he would face 25 years to life in prison.

In January 2011, Roberts was convicted on arson and burglary charges and was sentenced to two years in jail and four years probation.

He was charged for the Smiley shooting only weeks after being sentenced in the arson case.

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