Accidental Hit Man

Sure, Paul Brandreth talks like a wiseguy. But is he a cold-blooded killer?

Brandreth also says he had nothing to do with the Boulis killing. "I never heard of Gus until later," he explains.

Indeed, only one of Brandreth's six arrests before the murder charge involved violence: a 2002 bar fight in Key West. So, is he a killer or simply an unlucky drug dealer? Was he set up? Did Lehmann, Hbaiu, and Keneuker coordinate their stories to receive lesser sentences?

The three were initially charged with first-degree murder, but they all copped a plea deal at the end of 2007. Keneuker pleaded to second-degree murder and received a six-year prison sentence. Hbaiu got five years. (He has already been released.) Lehmann, ringleader of the drug-dealing network, is serving a six-year federal sentence on the trafficking charges. He has yet to be sentenced in the murder case.

"Everyone down here is a rat," Brandreth sighs. "To be honest with you, I wish I had never come down to Florida."

Brandreth's tough-talking lawyer, Michael Walsh, adds there's no physical evidence linking his client to the crime. But he's worried about Lisbet Colon, the dog walker who allegedly saw two men carry a body out of Lehmann's apartment.

Prosecutor Michael Von Zamft is confident he will win a conviction despite his star witnesses' contradictory accounts of the details. "[There are] different versions of events," he says. "[But] the core of what they are all saying is the same."

Brandreth's behavior will work against him. He has refused to cooperate with police — "I don't talk to cops," he says — and he recently called Von Zamft a "cocksucker" in open court.

While awaiting his trial, which is scheduled for April, he does triceps dips, pushups, and sit-ups a couple of days a week in a small caged area in the prison yard. In his cell, he reads the Bible. "Jeremiah 29:11," he says. "It's stopped me from going crazy and shit.

"For I know, the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Says his lawyer, Walsh: "One thing Paul's not good at is lying. No whiny, no bitchy, little-boy attitude."

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