A Hernando County judge sentenced Mikell Begley of Brooksville to 11 years in prison last week for the April death of Begley’s friend Gary Ziegler. The sentence came after Begley pleaded no contest to DUI manslaughter.
Had he been convicted at trial, Begley faced a maximum prison term of 15 years. He has several prior arrests in Florida, including a burglary conviction in Hernando in 2007.
Begley also pleaded no contest to a charge of battery on a corrections officer, which was filed after Begley spat on an officer at the Hernando County Detention Center earlier this month. He will serve a three-year sentence on that charge to run concurrently with the manslaughter term.
Begley and Ziegler reportedly spent the afternoon of April 23 together at Felony’s Bar and Grill in Spring Hill, shooting pool, eating chicken wings and drinking beer. When they left that evening, Begley drove.
At some point, Begley’s car allegedly veered into the other lane, nearly colliding head-on with a Hernando sheriff’s deputy. The car then left the road, started to spin and hit a tree.
Both men were wearing seat belts but Ziegler died at the scene from a blunt-force head injury. Begley also suffered a critical head injury. He attended the sentencing in a wheelchair , wearing a protective helmet. His brother, who spoke on his behalf at sentencing, said that they had not been sure Begley would survive the accident and that he had regressed after being transferred to jail from a nursing home. Begley also spoke and expressed remorse for the accident and for his friend’s death.
Toxicology test results revealed that Begley’s blood-alcohol level was 0.121 and 0.125. Under Florida law, a driver is presumed to be intoxicated when the blood-alcohol level reaches 0.08.