Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Snitch' Begs for Mercy, but Still Gets Prison; PROBATION VIOLATION Star Witness Helped Seal the Hartsfield Case, So the Judge Reduces His Sentence

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Snitch' Begs for Mercy, but Still Gets Prison; PROBATION VIOLATION Star Witness Helped Seal the Hartsfield Case, So the Judge Reduces His Sentence

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM

Throughout his cooperation with Jacksonville police against the man who shot former Jaguar Richard Collier, star state witness Stephfan Wilson's oft-stated goal was to avoid a return to federal prison.

Wednesday, he missed that goal by six months.

Wilson's association with convicted shooter Tyrone Hartsfield was a violation of his probation for his role in a 2001 Atlanta bank robbery, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan said. He sentenced Wilson, 39, to six months in prison.

But Corrigan also said he would have given Wilson far more time had he not cooperated with police by wearing a wire and testifying against Hartsfield. He faced up to five years.

Wilson's attorney, Donald Mairs, subpoenaed a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detective and a state prosecutor to testify in an effort to convince Corrigan to reward Wilson for his cooperation. Both called him a "crucial witness."

"We could not have won the case without his cooperation and the recording that he made," said Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, cast in the peculiar role of defense witness. "He could have fled town and not cooperated, but he did [cooperate]."

Wilson was with Hartsfield in September 2008 when Hartsfield shot Collier in Riverside after following him from a San Marco nightclub. Collier was paralyzed below the waist and lost his left leg to amputation.

At the time, Wilson was on federal probation for the bank robbery and wasn't permitted to associate with criminals. Detective Dennis Sullivan testified Wilson agreed to secretly record Hartsfield after police reminded him of the potential legal ramifications of that association.

That five-hour recording and Wilson's testimony became the centerpiece of the state's attempted murder case, which resulted in Hartsfield's conviction and life sentence in November, de la Rionda said. Hartsfield was forced to testify to try to explain the recording, and that allowed de la Rionda to damage his case during cross examination, the prosecutor said. …

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