Charges dropped against Bradenton man in strip club death

jdeleon@bradenton.comJuly 12, 2014 

SARASOTA -- Charges against a Bradenton man accused of killing another man during a fight at a Sarasota strip club have been dropped by the State Attorney's Office.

Brad T. Stanford, 32, was arrested on Feb. 23 and charged with manslaughter.

Just after midnight on Feb. 23, deputies responded to the report of a fight at Cheetah Lounge, 3939 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota.

When they arrived, they found Donald Canary, who was unresponsive and not breathing. Despite rescue attempts, Canary later died.

Stanford, a VIP host at the club, was struck by Canary when a fight broke out in the club, authorities said. Canary was taken down by other employees, but it was Stanford who placed him in a choke hold, as Canary continued to resist and threatened to kill or hurt Stanford if he let go.

Stanford did not let go until deputies arrived.

On July 3, the State Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the manslaughter charge, saying it was unable to prove Stanford acted criminally with culpable negligence.

"After reviewing all of the available evidence and in applying the elements of Florida law to the facts in this case, the State is unable to prove the unintended death of Donald Canary was other than one caused during sudden combat while Stanford was reacting to the fight," wrote Assistant State Attorney Earl Varn.

The decision came after conducting over 30 interviews with witnesses.

"This is just a terribly, terribly tragic event," Vern said Friday.

Defense attorney Derek Byrd was happy with the outcome.

"We contended from day one that it was self-defense," Bryd said. "Mr. Stanford saw the bouncer get sucker punched in the face that split his nose open. He wound up on the ground with a man twice his size and held him on the ground in fear of his own safety."

Bryd said Stanford is deeply remorseful for Canary's death.

"He never intended to hurt the man, let alone kill," Bryd said. "He has no prior record. He's an IT guy, he's not a fighter. He was just scared."

In the end, the State Attorney's Office determined it was justifiable homicide, he added.

"I applaud them for the diligence of their investigation," Bryd said. "They interviewed scores of people to make their conclusions."

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow on her Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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