A prosecutor says a 71-year-old man lied when he claimed he was defending himself when he shot and killed a decorated Air Force veteran on a basketball court in front of the man's young daughter.
Trevor Dooley is seeking dismissal of manslaughter and weapons charges in the death of David "D.J." James, 41, in Valrico on Sept. 26, 2010, claiming immunity under the state's controversial "stand your ground" law.
Dooley and James clashed when Dooley yelled at a teenager who was skateboarding on a basketball court at the Twin Lakes park. James, who was playing basketball with his 8-year-old daughter, Danielle, rose to the teen's defense.
When Dooley took the stand at a pretrial hearing in February, he testified that James "was killing me … He was choking me to death." He said he shot James after James violently attacked him, causing him to fear for his life.
But in a court filing released Thursday, Assistant State Attorney Stephen M. Udagawa said Dooley was the aggressor who overreacted to the dispute.
"His actions were criminal, and the court should not allow the defendant to hide behind the 'Stand Your Ground' law," Udagawa wrote.
Udagawa said Dooley's testimony "is not worthy of belief" and differed with testimony from witnesses. "At every point, the witnesses described the defendant as being angry, hostile, more aggressive, threatening or escalating the incident. The defendant denied it or gave an unbelievable explanation."
Dooley testified he crossed the street and approached the teen to tell him to skateboard on a concrete pad nearby. The younger, bigger James asked where the signs were prohibiting skateboarding, he said.
Witnesses said that Dooley argued with James, lifted his shirt to reveal a gun and uttered an obscenity at James. Dooley denied this.
Udagawa wrote in his pleading that Dooley "lied to the court on this point." Udagawa also questioned Dooley's claim that he carried his gun at all times. Udagawa suggested that Dooley retrieved the gun after James defended the skateboarder.
Witnesses, he wrote, saw Dooley go back to his garage and out of sight after James spoke up for the skateboarder. "He acknowledged that his gun is not safe," the prosecutor wrote, "yet testified he carried his gun around his house while engaged in household tasks around his wife. This is not reasonable or logical conduct and is not credible, believable testimony."
Dooley said James was choking him on the ground and he felt as though he was blacking out. James reached over and grabbed Dooley's right hand, which held the gun and yanked it up between them, Dooley said.
"He was choking me and he never let go of my neck," Dooley said. "I was about to black out and the gun was pointed directly at his chest." Dooley held the gun, but James' hand was wrapped around his fist, he said. "I couldn't fight back, and the muzzle was right against his chest."
Dooley said he shot James to save his own life.
But the prosecutor noted that three witnesses never saw any choking, and there were no marks or injuries on Dooley's neck.