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Man pleads guilty on 17 of 23 counts; leaves attempted murder charge for potential trial
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Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh speaks Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, to Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver during the plea hearing of Willie Moran. Moran, 24, is accused of shooting at two people at the Huddle House on Jan. 23, 2019. - photo by Scott Rogers

A Gainesville man pleaded guilty to 17 of 23 counts, leaving three attempted murder counts open for a potential trial in February.

Willie Joe Moran, 24, was accused of shooting at two people at the Huddle House and then two people in a vehicle at Marlow Drive less than 30 minutes later, according to authorities.

Moran pleaded guilty to multiple counts of aggravated battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by convicted felon and wearing a mask to conceal identity.

The only counts left open for trial were three counts of criminal attempt to commit murder and three counts of criminal damage to property in the second degree.

Defense attorney Larry Duttweiler said he and his client are “not trying to trick anyone.”

“In fact, we are trying to save valuable court time and valuable resources from several agencies by pleading guilty to what we’re guilty of,” Duttweiler wrote in an email.

Duttweiler also said he feels merging some of the 20-year felonies into the 30-year maximum penalty for attempted malice murder “will actually be less total years available for punishment.

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Willie Joe Moran


Sentencing will be held following a trial. The total available years on the sentence is 202 years.”

Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh appeared for the prosecution, reading through the allegations in the indictment regarding events on Jan. 23, 2019.

According to the indictment, Moran was accused of shooting at Michael Benham, 60, at the Huddle House in the arm and torso.

In the aggravated battery count, Moran allegedly shot “the floor around Benham with a handgun, causing injuries due to shrapnel.”

Moran also allegedly chased Shekeria Thompson “with a handgun causing her to fall and break her arm,” an injury that required surgery. Moran also allegedly fired shots at her in the restaurant as well as “firing shots as she fled the restaurant, placing her in fear of receiving immediate serious bodily injury and death.”

Regarding Marlow Drive, the grand jury charged Moran with criminal attempt to commit murder as to Yanira Smith-Rodriguez, 37, and Darvis Peterson, 23.

Smith-Rodriguez was shot in the face while sitting in a car with Peterson on Marlow Drive, authorities said.

Authorities said Peterson was not injured.

The gunshots to Smith-Rodriguez’s face caused a “shattered jaw, (a) mutilated tongue, loss of teeth and (a fractured chin),” according to the warrants.


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Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh, right, and defense attorney Larry Duttweiler consult Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Hall County Superior Court during a plea hearing for Willie Joe Moran. Moran, 24, is accused of shooting at two people at the Huddle House on Jan. 23, 2019. - photo by Scott Rogers
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