3rd Warlocks murder defendant found guilty of manslaughter

3rd Warlocks murder defendant found guilty of manslaughter

SANFORD -- A 40-year-old Longwood biker will spend at least 20 years in prison following the shooting deaths of three members of the Florida Warlocks, a rival biker group, during a shootout at the VFW hall in Winter Springs.

Jurors deliberated for about six hours before convicting Robert "Willie" Eckert on two counts of manslaughter with possession of a firearm, one count of attempted second-degree murder with possession and discharge of a firearm and one count of attempted voluntary manslaughter.

Eckert was found not guilty on one count of second-degree murder.

He's to be sentenced Monday at 1:30 p.m.

Eckert is one of four members of a breakaway Florida Warlocks biker club who was arrested. Each claims he acted in self-defense.

They opened fire on five Florida Warlocks as they wheeled into the VFW parking lot. Three were killed.

Assistant State Attorney Stewart Stone on Friday told jurors that Eckert and his allies "waited to confront them with guns in their hands."

It was one of Eckert's allies, Paul Wayne Smith, who opened fire, Stone said.

But defense attorney Adam Pollack said Eckert was doing nothing more than defending himself. Eckert told police he fired three times.

Ballistics tests show that his bullets killed no one. Still, prosecutors charged him with three count of murder because he participated in a crime, they allege, that resulted in three deaths.

"(If) you participate in these kinds of events, you're going to be held responsible," Stone said.

Co-defendant David Maloney, 54, of Longwood, who was leader of Eckert's group, was acquitted of murder two weeks ago, although, jurors were unable to reach a verdict on one attempted murder count. Prosecutors have not said whether they plan to retry him.

Last week the trial of the second co-defendant, Victor Amaro, 43, of Winter Springs, ended in a mistrial. His bullets killed two of the victims. He's to be retried next month.

There is no trial date yet for the fourth co-defendant, Smith, 49 of Effingham, S.C., whose bullets killed one of the victims.

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Rene Stutzma
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legalpronews.findlaw.com

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