Man not guilty in teens’ deaths

By Jackie Alexander, Times Staff Writer

Published: Saturday, June 14, 2008

After about two hours of deliberations, jurors found Jerome T. Freeland Jr. was not responsible for the crash that killed his two passengers Dec. 28, 2005.

But they did find him guilty of possessing marijuana, hydrocodone and LSD that day.

Freeland, 21, was found not guilty of two charges of DUI manslaughter. He breathed a big sigh of relief as the verdict was read.

The mother of Amanda Angell, 16, who died in the crash, buried her head in her hands and wept.

“They have their son,” said Darlene Muss, Angell’s mother. “We will never see our daughter again.”

Pinellas Circuit Court Judge Pamela Campbell sentenced Freeland to five years in prison on the LSD charge and five years each of probation for possessing the marijuana and the hydrocodone.

Witnesses said Freeland’s car failed to turn with the road and slammed into a wall in front of Sun Coast Hospital, killing Angell and her boyfriend, Joshua Naylor, 19.

Largo police also said they found 180 grams of marijuana, . in Freeland’s Honda Accord.

Freeland’s attorney, Roger Futerman, told jurors Friday that the case boiled down to the testimony of doctors vs. the testimony of police.

He said medical records showed doctors from Sun Coast Hospital who examined Freeland 10 minutes after the crash showed he was not impaired. The records said Freeland’s pupils were not dilated, he was alert and responsive and his blood pressure was normal.

Futerman also stressed that there’s no way to know for sure what happened inside the car or whether someone else grabbed the wheel in the moments before the crash.

Prosecutor Holly Grissenger disagreed, and said there was no dispute that Freeland was impaired.

“He was not able to turn the car because he was stoned,” she said.

Toxicology reports showed Freeland had marijuana in his blood at the time of the crash.

Grissenger also tried to raise doubts about the credibility of defense witnesses, asking several why they hadn’t spoken to the defendant until about two weeks ago.

Futerman said witnesses wanted to wait until after the depositions.

“We’ve been on this case for six months,” he said. “I have 500 hours in on this case.”