COLLIER COUNTY — After nearly a year fighting her conviction and sentence, record-winning Swamp Buggy Racer Amy Chesser walked into court Thursday and surrendered to begin serving her state prison sentence.
Unlike prior proceedings, where Chesser was surrounded by many family members and friends, Chesser was accompanied by her boyfriend, two other men and defense attorney Donald Day.
Standing before the judge wearing faded bellbottom jeans and a T-shirt, 27-year-old Chesser of Bonita Springs was flanked by Day and Assistant State Attorney Mara Marzano when Collier Circuit Judge Elizabeth Krier executed the sentence.
“The court hereby remands you to the custody of the Department of Corrections,” Krier said as Chesser, Day’s arm on her back, walked toward a bailiff and into a hallway to a holding cell, where she will be transported to the county jail and later taken to a state prison.
With that, the brief hearing ended and everyone left without comment.
Chesser, who gained fame by winning swamp buggy races, following in her famous father’s tracks, will serve a three-year state prison term Krier imposed on June 22 for felony battery for severely injuring Eliza Masco, a 40-year-old mother of two, during a fight in June 2007.
Masco was not at the sentencing and couldn’t be reached afterward.
Chesser, who will serve about 85 percent of that term, also will get credit for more than a month she spent in the county jail, from May 20, 2009, when jurors convicted her, to June 23, when Day filed a notice of appeal a day after her sentence.
After her release, she’ll serve two years of probation. During the first year, she must undergo a psychological evaluation — and follow recommendations — and take anger management classes.
The prison sentence is a far cry from what Chesser had faced. The third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in a state prison, while the second-degree felony jurors acquitted her of carries a 15-year maximum.
Masco suffered a fractured right eye socket, a broken nose, a concussion, a detached retina, broken teeth, cuts, bruises and neurological damage. The mother of two testified she’s had several operations and hasn’t worked as a cosmetologist since then.
A hearing will be held to determine restitution, unless attorneys stipulate on what Chesser should pay Masco.
At trial, Chesser testified Masco threatened her so she defended herself Aug. 15, 2007, when they fought outside Masco’s gated community, Key Royal Villas in North Naples. They’d driven there because Masco’s boyfriend, Robbie Daffin Jr., wanted to fight with Masco’s ex-husband, Brian Langford, who was dating Chesser.
The men got black eyes, but neither pressed charges, but Daffin drove Masco to the hospital and she pressed charges. At trial, Day argued — and Chesser testified — Masco’s injuries were likely caused when she slipped in the rain and hit the truck’s bumper before hitting the ground.
On March 10, Day argued the appeal before the three-judge District Court of Appeal in Tampa. The court also heard arguments from Assistant State Attorney General Donna Koch, who represented the state.
Day contended Krier prohibited jurors from hearing evidence that would have allowed Chesser to show she was acting in self-defense when she fought with Masco. He also argued jurors should have been allowed to hear that Masco repeatedly texted her ex-husband, a key witness, to try to get him to change his testimony; that Masco wanted to bolster her attempt to claim $69,000 from the state Victim’s Compensation Fund; that the judge didn’t allow jurors to hear about Masco’s past aggressive incidents; and that Masco was angry and aggressive shortly before the altercation, not calm as she’d testified.
Two weeks later, the DCA affirmed the conviction and sentence, issuing no written opinion.