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Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Clearwater burglar nets 22 years in prison

— Ten days after he was acquitted of killing a drug addict at the behest of a drug dealer he was trying to impress, a Clearwater man was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Friday for an armed burglary at the drug dealer's house.

Prosecutors argued that Michael McKinney, now 39, fatally shot Casey Garber in June 2011 to impress convicted drug dealer Christopher Mickey, but a jury acquitted McKinney of first-degree murder on April 15, a charge that would have netted McKinney a life sentence.

However, prosecutors convinced a jury that days after the shooting, McKinney went to Mickey's house. Prosecutors said he wanted to stop Mickey from betraying him to authorities in the shooting. McKinney's defense attorneys argued the visit was the result of a drug deal gone awry.

Ten days after Garber's body turned up, McKinney went to Mickey's house three times. The third time, he showed up wearing black and had a gun, wire cutters, a lock-pick set and a knife, and he cut a surveillance camera cable while a young woman and a newborn baby were inside, prosecutors said.

A jury convicted him of possession of burglary tools and armed burglary, the latter of which carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years.

Circuit Judge Joseph A. Bulone could have sentenced McKinney to life in prison because the burglary charge is a first-degree felony. Instead, he sentenced McKinney to 22 years, in part because the armed burglary wasn't as serious as others where the suspect actually enters a residence and rapes or tortures the occupants.

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