MANATEE -- Andre Bryant, convicted of robbing the wife of a Manatee County sheriff's deputy at gunpoint at a Bradenton pharmacy in 2006, will be released from prison after State Attorney Ed Brodsky concluded that his conviction should be set aside.
After a review of new and original evidence in the case against Bryant, Brodsky made the announcement in a memo Wednesday.
"While I am not making a finding as to Mr. Bryant's innocence, I do believe the re-examination of the original and new evidence in this case leads to a reasonable doubt as to Mr. Bryant's involvement in this robbery," Brodsky wrote.
Bryant, 27, is serving a 30-year sentence for the armed robbery, but he has maintained his innocence.
In June 2007, a jury found Bryant guilty of approaching the open, passenger-side window of Lori Cline's car at a Walgreen's drive-through on Manatee Avenue West and holding a gun against her 14-year-old son's head. Cline's 11-year-old daughter and her 10-year-old friend were in the back seat at the time.
Bryant, on probation at the time for drug charges, was identified by the victims as the robber and was arrested in the hours that followed.
In Brodsky's memo Wednesday, he said there had been enough evidence at trial for conviction, but new evidence called Bryant's guilt into question, he said. Evidence that produced reasonable doubt includes:
The clothing the robber was described as wearing was never recovered in Bryant's vehicle or home.
The wallet the victim gave the robber was never found in Bryant's possession, home or vehicle.
Two of the victim's credit cards were found the morning after the robbery far outside the path Bryant took in fleeing police.
Fleeing police is consistent with someone who has active warrants for his arrest, as Bryant did for probation violations.
Using new technology, the store's surveillance video was enhanced and despite some distortion, it is now questionable whether it is Bryant in the image.
Brodsky told the Bradenton Herald that his office spoke
with Bryant's attorney from the Innocence Project of Florida, and that the necessary paperwork to secure his release is being prepared.
"Obviously, we are very pleased that the state attorney has come to this decision to agree to vacate Andre Bryant's conviction," said Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocent Project of Florida. "We understand when the state attorney is looking at something like this; it requires a thorough and diligent investigation.
"We applaud the state attorney for taking an objective look at this case, and once they did this, justice required they overturn Andre's conviction."
Miller has told Bryant's family, he said.
"He talks to his wife almost every day or whenever he gets the opportunity," Miller said. "The hope is he calls today so they can give him the news."
Bryant's wife, Ivette Logan, said she was too excited to sit still after receiving the news.
"When I got the call, it was just so much. It has been the day I've been praying for, I'm still in shock," Logan said.
Logan said she was preparing to meet Bryant upon his release.
The couple were married while Bryant was in prison, but not in each other's presence. A big wedding will definitely be in their future, she said.
Other than that, she said they will just take life "one day at a time."
Miller was preparing the joint stipulation to vacate the conviction when he spoke to the Bradenton Herald on Wednesday afternoon. The stipulation will then be sent to the State Attorney's Office to be signed.
The joint stipulation will then have to be sent to a judge to be signed before the conviction is officially vacated. Once that is filled, the State Attorney's Office will have to file a decline to prosecute notice with the court before the case can be closed and the process to release Bryant can begin.
Miller said copies of the documents will then have to provided to the Department of Corrections and the process to begin his release will begin.
Miller is hoping Bryant will be released by late Thursday. If not, Miller said he expects it will happen by Friday.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.