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Clearwater man pleads guilty to hit-and-run

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Published:   |   Updated: December 20, 2013 at 10:22 PM

CLEARWATER — A Clearwater man pleaded guilty Friday to striking a pedestrian with his sport utility vehicle two years ago, then driving off. The pedestrian died four days later.

John Wooley, 52, of 111 N. Lady Mary Drive, No. 9, was convicted of leaving the scene of a wreck involving a death and received a two-year prison sentence as part of a plea agreement between the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office and Wooley’s attorney, Stephen Romine.

Wooley also had been charged with driving under the influence manslaughter, a crime that typically carries a minimum mandatory sentence of four years, but prosecutors reduced that to a drunken driving charge. Wooley pleaded guilty to that charge, too.

Wooley struck pedestrian David Wayne Massey, 51, at Cleveland Street and Fredrica Avenue on Sept. 1, 2011, Clearwater police spokesman Rob Shaw said. Massey was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, where he died four days later.

Wooley was at his home, which was nearby, shortly after he drove off, Shaw said. A witness had given investigators a description of the vehicle that was involved, the spokesman said.

Wooley admitted to leaving the scene, Shaw said, and at the time he had slurred speech and a strong odor of alcohol about him. His blood-alcohol level was not available Friday.

Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant state attorney, said the DUI — manslaughter charge was reduced to a simple DUI because there were some question as to the extent to which Wooley caused Massey’s death. In Florida, a driver has to have caused a victim’s death to be convicted of the manslaughter charge.

Like Wooley, Massey was intoxicated, with a blood-alcohol percent of roughly .3 percent, or more than three times the level at which a driver in Florida is presumed intoxicated. There also were indications Massey was in the road when he was struck, and it was a dark and rainy night, Bartlett said.

The two years Wooley received was a minimum mandatory sentence for anyone convicted of leaving the scene of an accident involving death and drunken driving at the same time, Bartlett said. Wooley’s driver’s license was suspended for five years.

Wooley had a previous drunken driving conviction from a traffic stop in 2006.

sthompson@tampatrib.com. (727) 215-6504.

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