A Leesburg man is behind bars in Marion County after using FaceTime on his phone while fleeing from a Florida Highway Patrol trooper on Interstate 75 at speeds in excess of 100 mph.
The FHP trooper attempted to make a traffic stop on the entrance ramp to I-75 at State Road 44 in Wildwood late Wednesday night after he spotted the driver of a Lincoln Town Car, later identified as 33-year-old Robert Antonio Hughes, speeding and driving recklessly.
The trooper made a U-turn on SR 44 to pursue the Lincoln because it matched the description of a vehicle that eluded Sumter County sheriff’s deputies a few minutes earlier at U.S. 301 and SR 44, a FHP report states.
The trooper started following the Lincoln heading west on SR 44, pacing the Lincoln at 90 mph in a 45-mph zone. And he stayed behind the car as it weaved in and out of traffic and passed other vehicles in the turning lanes of SR 44, the report says.
The pursuit moved onto I-75 and quickly reached speeds of 110 mph. The trooper deployed his StarChase tracking system onto the fleeing vehicle and the pursuit continued for another 40 miles on the interstate, the report says.
At mile marker 366, both the Lincoln and the FHP cruiser struck Stop Sticks that had been deployed by Marion County sheriff’s deputies. The Lincoln then entered the median of I-75 at Mile Marker 370 at a slow rate of speed and was pinned against the guardrail by the trooper’s patrol vehicle, the report says.
Upon further investigation, troopers discovered that Hughes, who lives at 209 S Lake St., Apt. C, in Leesburg, was listed as a habitual traffic offender. During a search of the Lincoln, they found a lump sum of cash, more than 20 grams of marijuana, a vape pen containing cannabis concentrates and individually packaged items of edible marijuana chocolates, the report says.
Hughes was arrested and transported to the Marion County Jail, where he was charged with driving while license suspended (habitual); fleeing or eluding law enforcement officers with lights and siren active; possession of marijuana more than 20 grams; possession of marijuana with intent to sell; possession of a controlled substance without a prescription; and reckless driving (first offense). He is being held on no bond and his next court date hasn’t yet been set, jail records show.
Hughes is no stranger to the legal system, having spent time in the Lake County Jail nine times since April 2010. His most recent stay in that detention facility came on March 25 when he was arrested for driving with a suspended license (habitual). He was released the same day on $2,000 bond.
Hughes’ eight prior arrests in Lake Couty were for a litany of charges – some more than once – that included:
- Domestic battery;
- Failure to pay child support;
- Driving with a revoked or suspended license;
- Felony fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement officers;
- Possession of marijuana more than 20 grams;
- Possession of drug equipment;
- Possession of a new or medicinal drug without a prescription;
- Possession of marijuana with intent to sell;
- Violation of probation for fleeing and eluding;
- Violation of probation for driving with license suspended;
- Providing a false name or identification to a law enforcement officer;
- Possession of marijuana not more than 20 grams; and
- Criminal contempt of court.