SARASOTA -- Delmer Smith, the suspect in a string of violent home invasion robberies and one homicide, was found guilty Friday of misdemeanor battery for his role in a August 2009 bar fight in Venice.
He originally had been charged with felony battery. Judge Rochelle T. Curley said the issue the jury had wrestled with was whether the victim had suffered great bodily harm.
She sentenced Smith to 11 months, 29 days in jail with credit for time served.
Restitution will be decided at a later date.
The judge instructed Smith to have no contact with victim Jason Byrne, who is also in the Sarasota County jail because he was arrested Friday morning on an outstanding warrant.
When asked by the judge after the sentencing if he had anything to say, Smith replied, “No. Thank you.”
After his arrest after the Aug. 14, 2009, bar fight, authorities identified Smith as the suspect in as many as 12 violent home invasion robberies in Manatee and Sarasota counties during which several women were sexually assaulted, and one, Kathleen Briles of Terra Ceia, was beaten to death. He faces charges in six of the cases.
He will stand trial on those charges later this year in Sarasota, and next year in Manatee.
Taking the stand in his own defense this afternoon, Smith said the alleged victim in the bar fight approached him, cursing and waving his finger. Smith said he thought "he was going to knock my teeth out with his forehead."
"I was trying to leave and he jumped at me," Smith said.
Smith said he was in the bar to make promotional video for the deejay, who was his girlfriend at the time. Part of the video was shown during the trial, and admitted as evidence.
The camera fell to the floor during the altercation, and the fight itself did not appear on the video.
Smith's attorney, Allan F. Baily argued in closing statement that Smith acted in self-defense.
The prosecutor, Assistant State Attorney Daniel Yuter, contended in his closings that the victim had suffered great bodily harm from a single punch thrown by Smith. The punch broke the orbital bone in the victim's face, Yuter said.
Yuter also noted that Smith weighed 285 pounds, was all muscle and had been a personal trainer at one point, while the victim weighed 150 pounds and stood 5 feet, 8 inches tall.
Smith is schedule to stand trial in November in connection to several attacks in Sarasota County, and in July 2011 he will be tried in the Briles case. If found guilty of killing Briles, he could be sentenced to death.
Smith has pleaded not guilty in the Briles case.
First up was the trial in Sarasota in connection with the bar fight.
Venice police arrested Smith after the bar fight in which the victim said Smith attacked him. The victim had requested Smith stop video recording his girlfriend dancing on the bar's dance floor.
Federal authorities said the bar fight violated Smith's probation for a 1995 bank robbery conviction, for which he was released in September 2008.
The federal warrant led Venice police and Sarasota County Sheriff's Office deputies to a storage bin used by Smith that held property stolen from four violent attacks on women in their homes, including the rape of two of the women.
Detectives also linked Smith with some of the crimes by comparing DNA taken from him after his arrest with evidence recovered from the crime scenes.
Federal prison officials had submitted Smith's DNA to the FBI for placement in a national database while he was still in custody, but it had not been entered because of a backlog in samples. So even though local investigators had recovered DNA from some of the crime scenes, it did not match with anything in databases.
Local officials have said they think some of the local crimes might have been averted if Smith's DNA had been included in the database.
FBI says it has been successful in reducing the size of the backlog since last year.