Timothy Baroody, 58, of Orange City, was found guilty Friday of aggravated assault, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

JURY VERDICT: Man guilty of aggravated assault with semi-truck

Timothy Baroody admitted he was in a bad mood and was tired of cars passing his semi in a no passing zone.

Timothy Baroody, 58, of Orange City, was found guilty Friday of aggravated assault, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The victims attempted to pass the semi a few times on Nov. 20, 2014, and Baroody blocked them with his vehicle before forcing theirs off the roadway. The victim gained control and entered the roadway, stopped the car and Baroody slammed into the back of the car, pushing it while one of the victims was still inside.

A jury found 58-year-old Baroody guilty Friday of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

While the weapon – an 80,000 pound 18-wheel tractor trailer – was somewhat unconventional, Assistant State Attorney Bonde Johnson argued that didn’t make it any more or less deadly.

In his opening statement, Johnson told jurors Baroody’s actions could be summed up with a simple phrase: road rage.

Baroody testified that the victim’s attempt to pass him made him angry because they had an opportunity to pass him in a passing zone but chose not to. When questioned by Johnson, Baroody admitted to taking matters into his own hands by repeatedly blocking them with his semi and then running them off the road.

“It was a dumb thing to do,” Baroody admitted from the stand Friday.

After running the car off the road, the victim pulled back into the right lane and stopped the car in front of the semi, where the driver exited the vehicle. Baroody hit their car and pushed it out of the way, causing the passenger to jump out while the vehicles were in motion.

“I wasn’t going to wait for them,” Baroody said in his 911 call, which was played for the jury in court.

He claimed he had no choice since tractor trailer drivers are taught not to back up on a highway. Baroody said this is because drivers have difficulty seeing what’s behind them and may hit an approaching vehicle.

“Didn’t you know that day with absolute certainty that you would hit a car if you went forward?” Johnson asked, adding that hitting a car was a mere possibility if Baroody had chosen to back up instead.

Assistant State Attorney Bonde Johnson points to evidence on a screen during trial Friday at the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow. Jurors deliberated for about an hour before returning with a guilty verdict.

“Yes,” Baroody replied.

Jurors found him guilty after about an hour of deliberation. Baroody will be sentenced Oct. 24 by Judge Yancey.

Kissimmee man found guilty of attempted manslaughter

JURY VERDICT: Kissimmee man found guilty of attempted manslaughter

Willie Charles Jones, 19, of Kissimmee, was convicted of attempted manslaughter by act and discharging a firearm from a vehicle. Jones was convicted Sept. 29 for an incident that occurred in July 2015 where he got angry at a driver, followed him home and fired two shots at him.

Assistant State Attorney Melissa Gravitt renacts how Jones fired his weapon into the air during closing statements Thursday.

In her closing statement, Assistant State Attorney Melissa Gravitt reiterated Jones’ testimony in which he admitted he could’ve kept driving but didn’t. Gravitt reminded jurors that Jones chose to follow the victim home and confront him.

Jones pulled up in front of the victim’s house and got out of the vehicle while shouting, so the victim grabbed a golf club from his garage to protect himself. Jones got back in the vehicle and pulled away from the home but stopped at the end of the street to fire two rounds at the victim.

Gravitt reminded jurors that the victim heard the first shot and then turned around to see Jones with a gun pointed at him. He then saw Jones fire a second shot.

Jurors deliberated for about an hour before returning a guilty verdict. Jones will be sentenced Nov. 10 by Judge Kevin Abdoney.

Man convicted of murder for second time

JURY VERDICT: Man convicted of murder for second time

Jurors found 24-year-old Benjamin Smiley guilty Thursday of killing a Lakeland man, making it the second time he’s been convicted of murder in less than a year.

Benjamin Smiley

After deliberating for about six hours, the jury found Smiley guilty of first-degree murder, robbery with a firearm, tampering with evidence, aggravated assault and burglary of a dwelling.

At gunpoint, Smiley had the victim’s stepson take him into the home and to the bedroom where the safe was. The home invasion turned into a homicide when Smiley shot 58-year-old Clifford Drake two times – once in the hip and again in the chest – after demanding he give him the location of the safe.

Drake fell to the floor, and Smiley then pointed the gun at Drake’s stepson – who witnessed the murder – and demanded he get on the ground. Smiley fled from the residence.

In November of 2015, Smiley was also convicted of first degree murder for a similar home invasion shooting Lakeland that resulted in the death of 46-year-old Carmen Riley.

While prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in both cases, Smiley’s sentencing will be delayed until the Florida Supreme Court makes a final decision regarding the state’s death penalty.

During the 6-day trial, Smiley testified that he wasn’t in Lakeland at the time of the 2013 shooting and that he was unsure whether he owned the backpack and hoodie law enforcement recovered, both of which had his DNA on them.

“It’s bad luck that you’re in the homicide investigation?” Assistant State Attorney Kristie Ducharme asked Smiley as he sat on the witness stand Thursday. “Is it sheer coincidence that your DNA was on several (items)?”

“No, it is not,” Smiley replied.

Assistant State Attorney Kristie Ducharme. (FILE PHOTO)

He also claimed that every witness who’d placed him at the scene of the crime lied and that he couldn’t remember where he was or what he was doing the night or the murder.

“The person who has the most to lose on the outcome of case is you,” Ducharme told Smiley. “You have the greatest motive to ensure the jury believes what you’re saying.”

When Smiley was asked by Ducharme if those statements were correct, he hesitated then agreed.

In her closing statement, Ducharme reminded jurors that the eyewitness account and DNA weren’t the only pieces of concrete evidence linking Smiley to Drake’s murder. Cell phone records show Smiley making a call just after Drake was shot, placing him at the scene.

Benjamin Smiley is either the most unlucky person on the planet, Ducharme said in her closing statement, or he is the person who murdered Clifford Drake in front of his stepson. She reminded jurors that the mountain of evidence presented in trial proved that Smiley killed Drake.

Gary Carroll stands in court with his lawyer Friday, Sept. 30, as he waits to be sentenced by Judge Sharon Franklin. Carroll was found guilty of his charges in August.

SENTENCING UPDATE: Carroll sentenced to 20 years

Gary Carroll was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday for striking and killing a bicyclist and leaving the scene.

Carroll, 48, of Lakeland, struck and killed the 32-year-old victim, left the scene of the crash and removed the physical evidence from his vehicle. He was found guilty by a jury on Aug. 22 and was sentenced by Judge Sharon Franklin on Friday.

Gary Carroll stands in court with his lawyer Friday, Sept. 30, as he waits to be sentenced by Judge Sharon Franklin. Carroll was found guilty of his charges in August.

In a letter that Carroll wrote to the judge, he told her he struggled with his health and asked for her leniency. He said his heart goes out to the family and friends of the victim.

But Carroll wasn’t the only one with a letter.

The victim’s 7-year-old daughter wrote one to Franklin as well.

Her letter talked about how her father would take her to the market and buy her stuffed animals. While she said she forgave Carroll because it was the right thing to do, she asked the judge to send him to jail “so no other kids don’t have their dads.”

Other family members talked about the victim’s devotion to his daughter and how he would ride his bicycle from Lake Wales to Bartow after work every night so he could be with his daughter. He wanted to make sure he didn’t miss an opportunity to spend time with her.

Carroll’s attorney asked that Franklin show leniency because of his health, stating that he didn’t think it would be justice for Carroll to die in prison.

But Assistant State Attorney J.C. Hill countered by saying Carroll’s actions – both by leaving the scene with death and tampering with evidence – were an effort to take justice away from the victim’s family.

“This defendant tried to avoid the consequences,” Hill said. “He tried to snatch justice from this family who lost a loved one.”

After the sentencing, the victim’s family members embraced each other as Carroll was removed from the courtroom.