Judge approved deal that kept man in deadly Orlando standoff out of prison, records show

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — A man who killed four children and shot an Orlando police officer was nearly sent to prison 19 days earlier, court records show.

In two different recorded hearings, Judge James Clayton came close to having Gary Lindsey Jr., 35, sent to jail.

In the second hearing, after ordering his release, the judge commented that Lindsey should have been going to jail for at least 73 months.

A month before Monday's murderous standoff, Lindsey tried sneaking out of a Sanford Walmart with old shopping bags filled with stolen merchandise, officials said.

It was a violation of probation after a 2008 arson, where Lindsey owed the victim $20,000, according to records.

His attorney argued that Lindsey was making the payments, but still owed the victim a lot of money.

The May court hearings were two of many times Lindsey was in front of a judge.

“This is your fourth violation. How is he avoiding that 10-year suspended sentence?” the judge said.

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Lindsey’s defense attorney told the judge that three were technical violations.

“This one isn’t technical. This is grand theft. I’m really disappointed to even see you," the judge said.

Lindsey then told the judge it had been about five years since he’s seen him and that he was doing well and maintaining a job.

The judge recalled why he never sent Lindsey to prison.

“I remember thinking that the restitution was why I didn’t put him in prison. And he pled, and it was an oddball type of thing,” the judge said.

But just as the defense attorney warned his client that jail was imminent, the judge said although he rarely gives a suspended sentence, he'd accept a negotiated deal.

The deal that was struck meant Lindsey's sister, who appeared at the podium, would provide $1,000 to the arson victim, who was an ex-girlfriend of Lindsey's.

“I really appreciate you doing that. That's saved him,” the judge said.

“Restitution is the key to this whole thing,” he added, speaking to Lindsey. “You're pushing the envelope. You score 73 months.”

What the judge meant by that was that Lindsey should have received 73 months, instead of being released on his sister’s $1,000.

Steve Barrett

Steve Barrett, WFTV.com

Reporter Steve Barrett returned to WFTV in mid-2017 after 18 months in the Twin Cities, where he worked as Vice President of Communications for an Artificial Intelligence software firm aligned with IBM.