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Man pleads guilty in fatal punch case

Gary Durham reaches a plea deal on an Oct. 24 road rage incident that will likely put him in prison for about 12 years.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 26, 2002


TAMPA -- Gary Durham, who killed a motorist with a single punch in a road rage incident last October, pleaded guilty to manslaughter Thursday. His plea was part of a deal that is expected to land him a prison sentence of nearly 12 years.

Durham, 26, was driving on N Armenia Avenue on Oct. 24 when his Infiniti nearly collided with a Chevrolet Suburban driven by Timothy Gibbs, 48.

The men exchanged angry words and gestures. Durham followed Gibbs into the parking lot of an auto repair shop, where, witnesses said, Durham sucker-punched Gibbs in the head. Gibbs hit his head on the asphalt and died 1 1/2 weeks later.

He left behind three children and his widow, Nancy, who said Thursday that she had wanted to see Durham go to prison for life.

"I feel like we've settled," she said. "He's shown no remorse. He's a nasty, angry person."

She added, "My husband was 48 when he died, and he should have been a lot older . . . He got killed. It wasn't an accident."

Durham has served prison time for grand theft, aggravated assault and trafficking in stolen property. As a habitual felony offender, Durham faced up to 30 years on a manslaughter charge.

But prosecutors worried about the risk involved in persuading a jury to convict him.

Taking it to trial "would be taking a big gamble," said prosecutor Doug Covington. "It's a difficult case to prove. Mr. Gibbs was hit one time. A lot of people have been in fights before (and might say), "There but for the grace of God go I.' "

Prosecutors agreed to recommend an 11.7-year sentence followed by five years of probation.

After Gibbs died, Durham turned himself in to authorities and said he had thrown the punch in self-defense and had not meant to kill Gibbs.

"Gary's taken responsibility for this from day one," Durham's defense attorney, Brian Gonzalez, said Thursday.

Gonzalez said his client, who now has a 4-month old child, would undergo anger management counseling as part of his sentence.

Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta will sentence Durham on Sept. 30.

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