Aaron Delaune

Gang member who fired shots at family in SUV convicted of attempted manslaughter


Aaron Delaune

Aaron Delaune

A gang member who fired gunshots into an SUV traveling on Havendale Boulevard with a family of four inside has been convicted of attempted manslaughter.


The family, which included 11-year-old twins, were traveling in September, 2018, to a birthday party at a nearby park. No one was injured, but two bullet holes were found in the tailgate area.

Aaron Delaune, who faces a minimum of 15 years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 6 before Circuit Judge Keith Spoto. Delaune has been in the Polk County Jail since his arrest in September. Jurors also found Delaune guilty of using a firearm during the crime and acting for the benefit of a criminal gang.

Assistant State Attorneys Victoria Avalon and Joe Concepcion prosecuted the case.

Avalon explained to jurors that Delaune, 27, wanted to move up the ranks in a motorcycle gang by shooting at the SUV on a public street.

It occurred on Sept. 1 when the victim maneuvered between motorcycles as he attempted to change lanes on Havendale Boulevard.

“He saw a hole in the group and merged into the center lane,” Avalon said of the victim. “He had no idea that his everyday world was going to change.”

Avalon said the gang demanded an act of violence for Delaune to move up the ladder of the gang.

“He intended to send a message: Don’t mess with the gang,” Avalon said.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorneys Avalon and Concepcion, the Auburndale Police Department, and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their work on the case.

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Demetri Graham

Dad who punched youth football coach sentenced to 9 months in jail

A father who punched his 9-year-old son’s football coach in the face after the team lost a game in North Lakeland in 2019 was sentenced last week to 270 days in jail and 12 months of probation.

The punch Demetri Graham threw as children watched caused William Roberti to receive 27 stitches to his lip. Jurors deliberated for 30 minutes before finding him guilty of battery.

Demetri Graham

Demetri Graham

“As soon as the coach turned his head, the defendant sucker punched him,” Assistant State Attorney Craig Leckie told jurors. “The defendant was mad they lost and his son didn’t play.”

Graham, 33, ran from Duff Field after he punched Roberti.

A number of witnesses testified during the trial, including Roberti.

The incident occurred on April 6 after the team lost a game that caused them to miss the playoffs. As Roberti brought the emotional team together for a pep talk afterwards, Graham approached and told them that they “sucked.”

Graham continued, saying that his son should have played because he was better than some of the other players.

“He told some of the kids they were trash,” Roberti said. “As a coach, I couldn’t let that go.”

Roberti, holding an athletic bag, stepped between Graham and some of the children. When he turned his head, Graham struck him in the face.

“I never thought it was going to be violent,” Roberti said. “At no point did I think it was going to be an altercation like that.”

Law enforcement investigated the incident at the field that day.

During the trial, Graham acknowledged that he struck Roberti, but he said that it was a case of self defense because Roberti entered “his personal space.”

After the verdict, Graham’s lawyer asked County Judge Robert Griffin for a sentence of probation.

The judge listened to him and Graham before determining the sentence. Griffin also ordered Graham to pay $1,442 for Roberti’s hospital bills and $101 to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for investigative fees.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Polk County Sheriff’s deputies and Assistant State Attorney Leckie for their work on the case.


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State Attorney Brian Haas presents Pete Mislovic with a plaque during a retirement party..

Mislovic, mentor to many, retires after nearly 30 years

State Attorney Brian Haas presents Pete Mislovic with a plaque during a retirement party..

State Attorney Brian Haas presents Pete Mislovic with a plaque during a retirement party.

After nearly 30 years, Pete Mislovic has hung up the Ohio State lanyard.

But Mislovic, 67, will leave a legacy of mentoring and encouraging young, up and coming lawyers into successful prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys.

“Pete has been such an important part of our team for many years,” State Attorney Brian Haas said.  “We will miss him a great deal, but hope he enjoys his well-deserved retirement.”

Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Mislovic and family left the small Ohio town in 1969 for a New Jersey town outside of New York City after his father received a promotion and transfer from the paper company where he worked.

It was a culture shock for the 16-year-old Mislovic who was used to having short haircuts and wearing button down shirts.

“It took about a year to get used to it,” Mislovic said.

But soon Mislovic adjusted, returned to Ohio to attend The Ohio State University in the early 1970s then enrolled in Stetson University Law School. He graduated from law school in 1978 and was drawn to Lakeland because his brother, Joe, and sister-in-law, Kathy, lived there.

After working in Tallahassee for a short stint, Mislovic began a job in criminal defense and family law with a  firm run by Greg Ruster and the late Ted Weeks. After several years there, Mislovic started his own firm, but an overload of paperwork prevented him from practicing law as much as he would have liked.

“I wanted more trial experience,” Mislovic said.

Former State Attorney Jerry Hill hired him and Mislovic worked his way through the misdemeanor division to felony then to overseeing the Lakeland division. In June of 1997, Hill named him chief of misdemeanor intake.

He loves the job, describing work with incoming lawyers as invigorating.

He’s been around some good ones.

State Attorney Haas worked as an intern in misdemeanor intake. A number of circuit and county judges worked for him or along his side in misdemeanor.

He has a bit of advice for the new lawyers: Try not to get too overworked with the massive number of cases, pay close attention to potential technicalities in cases that may arise and don’t let either the highs or lows in the job impact you too much.

What will Mislovic miss the most? All the people he worked with on a daily basis.

“Everybody I run into has been fun to work with,” Mislovic said.

So what are his plans for retirement?

Spending more time with his wife, Piper, children and grandkids and some golf and fishing.

One thing he won’t be doing is attending OSU football games.

Wearing an OSU tie and the lanyard, Mislovic said he’s been bad luck for the Buckeyes since he’s lived in Florida.

“I’m O-for-Florida

,” Mislovic said, describing how it was tough to tolerate Florida Gators fans in 2006 and 2007 after the team defeated Ohio State in the football and basketball championship games that season.

“It was unbearable,” he said.

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Michael Celello

Man sentenced to life for fatally shooting roommate, dumping body in Everglades

Michael Celello

Michael Celello

The Sebring man who fatally shot his roommate then dumped the man’s body in the Everglades was sentenced to life in prison on Monday.

Michael Celello, 59, was sentenced for the charge of second degree murder with a firearm. Circuit Judge Peter Estrada also sentenced Celello to a total of 13 years in prison for grand theft, tampering with evidence and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. That portion of the sentence was to run concurrently with the second degree murder sentence.

Celello dumped the body of Michael Cerillo in the Everglades off Alligator Alley after shooting him five times in his bed at their home in Sebring.

Assistant State Attorney Steve Houchin prosecuted the case.

He told jurors in November that Celello had become irritated with Cerillo’s constant criticism of him. Jurors deliberated for about two hours before returning with a guilty verdict.

On the night of June 28, 2016, Celello grabbed a gun under the couch, walked to the bedroom and shot Cerillo then wrapped his body in a sheet and loaded it into in the back of the Lexus. On the way to the Everglades, he picked up a friend then headed to the swamp to dump the body.

After dumping the body, Celello stopped at a service plaza in Broward County. His friend, passed a note to an employee at the station, asking him to call the police because she had just seen her friend dump a body in the Everglades.

The clerk called the Miccosukee Police Department and an officer later stopped the Lexus and arrested Celello.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks all law enforcement agencies, including the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, and Assistant State Attorney Houchin for their work on the case.


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