Shane Gallagher-Smith came into court Tuesday morning to claim he was acting in self-defense earlier this year when he shot and injured a man in an Inverness-area parking lot.
Instead, the 27-year-old Beverly Hills man walked out of Circuit Judge Richard “Ric” Howard’s courtroom knowing he’ll be spending several years in prison, starting next month.
Before arguments began Tuesday in his scheduled “Stand Your Ground” motion, Gallagher-Smith decided to change his not-guilty plea to a plea of no contest for charges connected to the February shooting.
His plea was in exchange for prosecutors’ offer of 7 1/2 years in prison, which includes a mandatory minimum sentence of three years.
Howard accepted Gallagher-Smith’s new plea and granted his request to turn himself in for sentencing on Nov. 7.
If Gallagher-Smith is either a no-show to his next court hearing or is arrested, Howard could sentence Gallagher-Smith to up to his crime’s maximum punishment of life in prison.
“In other words, the plea would stand but sentence wouldn’t,” the judge explained to Gallagher-Smith, who was wiping away tears after signing his plea agreement.
Gallagher-Smith was set to stand trial the week of Oct. 28 on felony charges of aggravated battery with a firearm that discharged and injured someone, possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and possessing methamphetamine.
If jurors convicted Gallagher-Smith as charged at a trial, Howard could have sentenced him to up to life behind bars with a minimum-mandatory term of 25 years.
Had Gallagher-Smith and his attorney Brian Trehy won their “Stand Your Ground” motion on Tuesday, Howard would have dismissed Gallagher-Smith’s charge of aggravated battery, which became a life felony because Gallagher-Smith fired a gun that struck Arnold Green.
However, even if she had to drop that charge, Assistant State Attorney Erin Leathers told Howard she would still prosecute Gallagher-Smith for his two remaining felonies, which totaled to a possible prison term of up to 20 years.
At the start of Gallagher-Smith’s court hearing on Tuesday, Howard asked for Trehy and Leathers to approach his courtroom bench for a discussion out of public earshot.
Afterwards, the judge gave Trehy time to speak with Gallagher-Smith about the options his client faced:
A change of plea now for a 7-1/2 year offer from prosecutors; up to 20 years if he won the Stand Your Ground motion but was found guilty at trial; or life if he lost the motion and was convicted at trial.
“You understand the cold realities of the court system?” Howard asked Gallagher-Smith. “It’s just an unfortunate situation you find yourself in.”
After several moments of apprehension, Gallagher-Smith opted for the lesser of his potential punishments.
Trehy told Howard that he and Gallagher-Smith “discussed the pros and cons versus going forward,” and came to the conclusion it was the best outcome.
“If court would allow,” Trehy noted to the judge, “based on my conversations with my client, we believe there was merit to our ‘Stand Your Ground’ motion.”
At around 9 p.m. on Feb. 28, Gallagher-Smith fired five rounds at Green, then 37, in the parking lot of the Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner of State Road 44 and South Stone Way, according to reports.
Responding Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies found Green with a shirt wrapped around a gunshot wound to his left elbow, which a bullet traveled through.
Gallagher-Smith’s confrontation with Green originated from a dispute between Green and his girlfriend, who’s related to Gallagher-Smith.
Gallagher-Smith and Green had got into a fight earlier that day when Gallagher-Smith and another relative went to Green’s house to confront him.
Green told sheriff’s-office investigators that Gallagher-Smith threatened him with a pistol before driving away in a gray truck, and Green got into his vehicle to chase him to the Dunkin’ Donuts.
While in the eatery’s parking lot, Gallagher-Smith suddenly stopped his truck, causing Green to rear-end it.
When Green got out to inspect the damage, Gallagher-Smith stuck a handgun outside the driver’s-side window and fired. Green was able to run away for safety.
In his court-filed "Stand Your Ground" motion, Trehy argued the shooting was justified because Green caused the crash and approached Gallagher-Smith armed with a knife, causing Gallagher-Smith to act in self-defense with his relative’s firearm.
A warrant was later issued for Gallagher-Smith’s arrest.
A sheriff’s-office detective spotted Gallagher-Smith on March 8 riding a motorcycle into his home’s driveway with his young son on board. As the detective was apprehending Gallagher-Smith, he found 3.2 grams of meth, resulting in an additional charge.