MANATEE -- Former Braden River High School football coach Josh Hunter, convicted of vehicular manslaughter in the drunken driving death of his best friend, had his sentence reduced Wednesday.
The decision by the Florida Executive Clemency Board means Josh Hunter, 38, will serve only seven years of a 10-year sentence for the death of Doug Garrity, a fellow football coach.
Hunter was found guilty May 17, 2010, of vehicular manslaughter for the crash that took Garrity's life. He was originally scheduled to be released July 18, 2021. A new release date was not immediately available.
Hunter was driving drunk on the night of March 21, 2009, when he crashed his Ford F-150 truck on the County Road 581 onramp at Interstate 75 near Venice. Garrity was thrown from the truck and killed.
In March 2014, a group of Hunter's friends and Garrity's parents went before the Florida Executive Clemency Board in Tallahassee to ask for his 10-year prison sentence for DUI manslaughter to be reduced four years.
Gov. Rick Scott, who chairs the clemency board, said it was rare to see a family advocate for the man who caused the death of their son, and it was important to keep in mind the value Hunter could add to his community.
"It's important to consider what this man can add to society by sharing his story about the dangers of drunken driving," Scott said.
Defense attorney Brett McIntosh said Wednesday he was pleased by the board's decision.
"I think it's a testament to the Garrity family and the courage and love they have showed to Josh throughout all this," McIntosh said. "They have certainly been through a lot."
The Florida Clemency Board is comprised of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. Scott, Bondi and Putnam agreed to reduce the sentence, while Atwater said he was against it.
"He chose to excessively drink. He chose to get behind the wheel of that car," Atwater said. "He should be held accountable for denying the entire community a chance to turn and look toward supporting the family."
After serving seven years in prison, Hunter will serve one year house arrest with an ankle bracelet and then another seven years probation.
During his probation he must perform 1,050 hours of community service, part of which has to be served at Sarasota National Cemetery. He also will have to speak to youth about his mistake.
Hunter will submit to frequent random screening for drugs and alcohol during his house arrest and probation.
Any violation would automatically send him back to prison for the full 15-year sentence, which is equal to the combination of his reduced sentence, the period of house arrest and probation.
Board members emphasized Hunter should look into speaking engagements at schools in Manatee and Sarasota counties to encourage young people to learn from his mistakes.
"I told the board that Josh being in jail for 10 years is a waste. He needs to be home talking to young people and telling them that the decisions they make can change their lives in a second," Dehlia Garrity, Doug Garrity's mother, told the Bradenton Herald after Hunter's original clemency hearing.
Among those who also spoke on his behalf were state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who said he has known Hunter about 20 years and played football with him at Southeast High School.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049 and email@example.com. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby.