tampabay.com

Armless driver in trouble again

He's been pulled over at least 45 times. Now he faces up to five years in prison.

By THOMAS LAKE
Published April 24, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - Wendy Wiley has spent 18 years married to a man who cannot tie his shoes or pour himself a drink, who twice kicked a state trooper with his one good leg, who refused to let the loss of both arms stop him from becoming one of Pasco County's most notorious traffic violators.

She fed him. Dressed him. Took the blame when he fled from a crash. She raised their daughter while he was in prison. She stood by him till the day he attacked her.

Now prosecutors want to send Michael Wiley to prison for five years on drug and illegal-driving charges. And his wife is on their side.

"I'd like to see him get the five years," Wendy Wiley said last week. "If not more."

Michael Wiley, 40, is scheduled to go to trial on those felony charges June 25. In the meantime, he pleaded no contest last week to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct in connection with a July 8, 2006, battery on his wife. He was put on misdemeanor probation.

According to a deputy's report, the two were arguing over a license tag in their home on San Miguel Drive in Port Richey when he head-butted her and had to be restrained by their daughter's boyfriend.

He moved out soon after that. His wife says he now has a girlfriend and a powerful drug addiction.

Wiley, who lost his limbs at age 13 after an accident involving an electrical transformer, drives by guiding the key into the ignition with his mouth, turning it with the toes on his right foot, and spinning the steering wheel with the stump of his left arm.

He has been pulled over and either cited or arrested at least 45 times since 1984, and his license has been suspended or revoked at least 19 times. But judges have given him light sentences, and he is so difficult to care for in jail that he is often released without having to post bail.

Despite the plea deal on the disorderly conduct charge, Wiley has more than one criminal case pending. Deputies say they caught him behind the wheel with illegal drugs in May and June of last year.

At a pretrial conference Monday in the New Port Richey courthouse, he wore carpenter jeans and a short-sleeved shirt with the sleeves hanging empty. His face was covered in red-gray stubble. He waited until Circuit Judge William Webb scheduled his trial, and then he walked out with help from his prosthetic left leg.

When a reporter approached him in the hallway, he backed away.

"I don't have nothing to say to you," he said, and slipped into the elevator.

Later that day, the reporter asked Wiley's lawyer, John Hooker of Tampa, how Wiley had gotten to and from the courthouse.

Hooker said that Wiley's girlfriend or his father had driven him to past hearings. But neither one was in court with him Monday.

"I didn't even ask," Hooker said. "I'm sure he didn't drive."

Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.