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'Zack' Chronister, son of Hillsborough's sheriff, gets prison time for knife attack

TAMPA - A Hillsborough circuit judge sentenced George Zachary Chronister to nearly two years in prison Wednesday after finding him guilty of stabbing and slashing the face of another man during a 2017 fight.

George Chronister, 25, is the son of Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister, though the father has said that their relationship in recent years has been distant. The son pleaded no contest to an aggravated battery charge in September.

Although the sheriff was not present at the sentencing, he still loomed over the proceedings.

"The only reason that the cameras are here is because of who your dad is," said the victim, Phillip Manzi. "That's the only reason this is getting any attention and the only reason you're not in a cell."

An amateur rapper who goes by the moniker "Zchronik," George Chronister boasted about the stabbing on the internet. He even produced a song, dubbed "Slash Yo Face," which he posted to YouTube. Prosecutor Travis Mellish played the recording for the judge.

After his 22-month prison sentence, Chronister must serve three years of probation, during which he will be prohibited from using social media.

In the minutes before he was led away in handcuffs, he apologized for his crime.

"It was not only stupid," he said. "It was very immature and I regret it deeply."

Manzi and his family rejected those sentiments.

"You stabbed me," Manzi said, "because you're a coward."

BACKSTORY: Son of Hillsborough sheriff claims stand your ground in stabbing case

It started with a disagreement over song lyrics. Chronister was said to have released a series of songs without giving credit to another musical group who had helped write them.

Tweets were exchanged. It culminated with a fight Feb. 26, 2017, outside Oakley's Grille on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in New Tampa. Manzi's friend, Matthew Cerro, and Chronister's friend, Micah Puckett, squared off in the parking lot.

Cerro quickly pinned Puckett. Chronister then approached with a knife in hand as Manzi and several other people shouted at him.

Manzi recorded a cell phone video showing Chronister approaching the brawling pair. In the recording, Chronister is seen lunging toward the camera. Manzi suffered a slash to his right cheek and a puncture wound to his back, which collapsed a lung.

Chronister later claimed self-defense under Florida's stand your ground law. His attorney, Ronald Darrigo argued that he feared Manzi and the others were about to attack him. A circuit judge denied the stand your ground claim in August.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Witnesses recount stabbing in Hillsborough sheriff's son's stand your ground hearing

George Chronister's mother, Teresa Adkins, who was divorced from Chad Chronister before their son turned 2, told the judge her son has matured in the nearly two years since his arrest. She referred to her son as "Zack." She praised George Chronister for being kind and helpful. She said he wants to attend college. She also addressed what she called "the elephant in the room."

"There is a target on Zack," she said. "And that is by no means any offense to Sheriff Chronister. But just by virtue of being his son, there is a target on Zack. He would not survive jail."

The defense attorney asked for house arrest, not prison. Darrigo said George Chronister is remorseful. He also reiterated his argument that Manzi, as recorded on the video, had encouraged Chronister to join the fight.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Nash disagreed. "I do think to some extent there was some provocation," Nash said. "But I don't think it rose to the level of being a willing participant in a knife fight."

Since the stabbing, Manzi said he and his family have been harassed and threatened. Because of what happened, they no longer trust the police. His voice broke with emotion as he described battles with depression and alcoholism.

He forever bears a long scar on his right cheek.

"Every time he looks in the mirror," Mellish said, "he has to relive this incident."

Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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