Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

UM clinic works to free pri­son in­mate

- By Elyssa Ch­er­ney Staff writer Crime · Incidents · Prison · Orange County · University of Miami · University of Miami · Miami · Chevrolet · Honda Motor Company · Harley-Davidson · Lake Mary · Apopka, FL · Warlocks Motorcycle Club

While serv­ing life sen­tences in the Okaloosa Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion, two felons from Or­ange County struck up a con­ver­sa­tion.

James Bed­sole and Justin Sars­field won­dered if they knew any of the same peo­ple. They did — Chad Brickey. He’s the man Bed­sole was in pri­son for killing in 2009 at an Apopka gas sta­tion, though Bed­sole in­sisted to Sars­field that he was wrong­fully ac­cused.

Sars­field be­lieved Bed­sole be­cause, as Sars­field later con­fessed in a sworn

state­ment, he was Brickey’s killer.

“I did not know that I hit Brickey with the shot that I fired un­til I met Bed­sole…” Sars­field wrote. “I am com­ing for­ward with this in­for­ma­tion be­cause I can­not al­low Bed­sole to be wrong­fully con­victed for a crime I com­mit­ted my­self.”

Sars­field’s con­fes­sion af­ter the chance pri­son en­counter is the ba­sis of a re­cent mo­tion by the Uni­ver­sity of Miami’s In­no­cence Clinic to ex­on­er­ate Bed­sole of his first-de­gree mur­der con­vic­tion. A judge will de­cide whether to throw out the mo­tion, hold a hear­ing on it or va­cate Bed­sole’s con­vic­tion and sen­tence.

The In­no­cence Clinic took on Bed­sole’s case in 2012, three years be­fore the con­fes­sion, be­cause of ques­tion­able eye­wit­ness tes­ti­mony and po­lice pro­ce­dures, said Craig Tro­cino, direc­tor of the uni­ver­sity law school’s project.

Tro­cino re­called the hairs on his arms stand­ing up as Sars­field re­counted to him by phone mi­nor de­tails men­tioned by wit­nesses at the trial.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing that the cir­cum­stances of the con­fes­sion are un­usual, even sus­pi­cious, Tro­cino said the new ev­i­dence must be heard.

Sars­field, Tro­cino said, is “com­ing to grips with be­ing re­spon­si­ble for what he did, and the guy he’s sit­ting right next to is serv­ing a life sen­tence for it. Just be­cause some­one is a crim­i­nal doesn’t mean they are au­to­mat­i­cally a liar. There’s a cer­tain code of pri­son jus­tice …”

The vic­tim’s fam­ily and the orig­i­nal pros­e­cu­tor in the case are skep­ti­cal.

For­mer As­sis­tant State At­tor­ney Les Hess said the ev­i­dence against Bed­sole was solid, and that his mo­tive for killing Brickey in Septem­ber 2009 re­mains clear.

“I don’t buy it at all,” Brickey’s mother, Gin­ger Ham­machi, 57, said of the new con­fes­sion. “The case was tried by a very good pros­e­cu­tor, we had a very in­tel­li­gent and at­ten­tive jury. ... It’s just com­mon sense — he met him in a pri­son and they made a deal.”

A fight, a chase

It was a Fri­day evening in 2009 when Brickey stormed out of Sharky’s Sports Bar.

The 29-year-old had got­ten into a fight with other pa­trons over “bad drugs” and was kicked out.

Based on po­lice re­ports, court doc­u­ments and news ar­ti­cles about his killing, here’s what hap­pened next:

Brickey, an Edge­wa­ter High School grad­u­ate, jumped in his red Chevrolet pickup and hit a parked Honda mo­tor­cy­cle on his way out.

Bed­sole, now 44, was also at Sharky’s that night. As a “pro­bate” mem­ber of the War­locks Mo­tor­cy­cle Club, he was watch­ing other mem­bers’ bikes out­side. He saw Brickey run over one, though it wasn’t a Har­ley-David­son be­long­ing to the War­locks.

Bed­sole tried to chase af­ter Brickey’s truck to get a li­cense-plate num­ber, but af­ter hav­ing a beer and three Jim Beam and Cokes, he couldn’t run very far. He headed back to the bar for wa­ter.

A se­cu­rity guard for the strip mall where Sharky’s was lo­cated didn’t give up. Hol­guy Louis­saint fol­lowed Brickey’s truck in his own pickup to a Mo­bil gas sta­tion. At some point dur­ing his pur­suit, a man jumped in the bed of Louis­saint’s truck and then jumped out.

Gun­shots sounded. Brickey’s car flew through bushes, crossed the north­bound and south­bound lanes of Or­ange Blos­som Trail and crashed into a ditch.

Louis­saint said he the gas-sta­tion clerk, called 911, and left.

Apopka po­lice ar­rived at the gas sta­tion about 1:27 a.m. to find Brickey dead in his car, with a bul­let wound in the back of his head.

Con­flict­ing ac­counts

told who

What hap­pened af­ter Brickey drove away from Sharky’s is still con­tested.

Louis­saint, the se­cu­rity guard, was first ar­rested as a sus­pect. But he be­came the state’s star wit­ness af­ter pick­ing Bed­sole’s photo from a lineup of 40 — all of whom were War­locks.

Bed­sole, whose record shows one ar­rest for theft in 2004, a charge that was never pros­e­cuted, has main­tained his in­no­cence from the be­gin­ning, Tro­cino said. He was too drunk to chase Brickey that night and re­turned to his Lake Mary home, Tro­cino said.

The pros­e­cu­tion, how­ever, ar­gued at the 2011 mur­der trial that Bed­sole didn’t turn around when he ran af­ter Brickey. In­stead, he got into Louis­saint’s truck.

“He was hop­ing to be­come a full-fledged War­lock and was on pro­ba­tion,” Hess said this week by phone, re­call­ing the trial. “When Chad Brickey ran over the bike, he had mo­tive to prove him­self or re­deem him­self for al­low­ing the bike to get run over.”

In his con­fes­sion, Sars­field, now 37, wrote that he used to buy drugs from Brickey. On the night of the shoot­ing, Brickey hit him with a pool stick at an­other bar be­fore head­ing to Sharky’s. When Sars­field saw Brickey driv­ing from Sharky’s, he said he jumped in the back of Louis­saint’s truck.

“Brickey cir­cled around the gas sta­tion, and when he seen me, he ac­cel­er­ated and tried to hit me,” Sars­field wrote. “I moved out of the way, pulled my pis­tol out and fired a shot through Brickey’s back win­dow.”

Sars­field, who had been in and out of jail since that night, was sen­tenced in 2014 to two con­sec­u­tive life terms on un­re­lated at­tempted mur­der and bur­glary charges.

Af­ter learn­ing of Sars­field’s con­fes­sion from a re­porter, Hess, the orig­i­nal pros­e­cu­tor, re­mained skep­ti­cal.

“It’s not un­com­mon for a prisoner with noth­ing to lose — be­cause he’s al­ready serv­ing life — to falsely take the blame in or­der to try help a per­son,” Hess said.

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