Damon Chase, right, helped bond above Florida Republican… (GEORGE SKENE, ORLANDO SENTINEL )
March 18, 2011|By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel
Damon Chase is one of the best arresting attorneys in Seminole County. His audience accommodate Jim Greer, ousted administrator of the Florida GOP, and Rep. Chris Dorworth, the man slated to become Florida’s House apostle in 2014.
But afore Damon Chase became a advocate with an appointment overlooking a golf advance and 37-foot yacht, docked on the coast, he was a man with a altered name and a continued history of arrests — including armed robbery and artifice — that began aback he was alone 7.
Aback he was 24, he was arrested in Orlando for hitting his girlfriend. At 31, he exhausted up a man in a Gainesville bar during a action over a World Series game.
His activity story, said longtime acquaintance Circuit Adjudicator Nancy Alley, is one of accretion and hope.
“I’m actually abashed of area I came from,” said Chase, 44, of Winter Springs. “However, I am acutely appreciative of area I am.”
For the aboriginal 31 years of his life, he was Floyd Lee Downs. He accurately afflicted that in 1997, swearing to a Gainesville adjudicator that he was not aggravating to adumbrate his bent past.
“I hated my name,” Chase explained. He chose Damon Chase because it was different and accessible to spell.
By then, he had bankrupt up his life, mostly. He was a full-time apprentice at the University of Florida, alive against degrees in amusement and business and — his absolute ambition — law school.
He appear to the UF academy of law and the Florida Lath of Bar Examiners — the accumulation that decides whether one gets to be a advocate — his accomplished activity story.
For the bar examiners, it was not an accessible sell. They advised him, for a time, like a bent who could not be reformed. That’s abundantly because of two bent cases: Chase was arrested in Fort Lauderdale aback he was 28, accused of application addition man’s Social Security agenda to try to get a affected drivers license.
And there was that Gainesville bar action that larboard the added guy with a burst rib and a tooth agape out.
In both instances, prosecutors absitively there had been no crime.
Bar examiners advised copies of his arrest and cloister records, including those that showed he owed $20,000 in aback adolescent abutment and that during one six-year stretch, he hadn’t filed federal tax returns.
Chase paid off the adolescent support, filed his aback taxes and, because the lath accepted it, underwent a cerebral appraisal and treatment. In 2003, one year afterwards he anesthetized the Bar exam, he was accepted to The Florida Bar at age 37.
He has not been arrested back nor acclimatized by the Bar.
Rough aboriginal life
As a boy, he bounced amid Louisville, Ky., area his mother lived, and South Florida, his father’s home. He and his earlier brother had little developed supervision, he said.
He was aboriginal arrested at age 7, he says, for burglary, cheating into and trashing a academy on a Saturday.
He was arrested afresh at age 11, this time for armed robbery. He had tucked a crowbar central his anorak and gone into a Louisville gas base with two earlier boys, according to Bar-examiner records. He accepted money from the agent and afresh snatched added than $200 from the banknote drawer.
His arrests beatific him to advance homes, a juvenile-detention center, accumulation homes and a assignment camp. At age 19, he affiliated a woman who was assured his child. They had a babe but afar a few months later. He was an ironworker at the time, afloat from job to job, accompaniment to state.
“I spent a lot of time in my aboriginal 20s aloof actuality homeless,” he said.
He captivated a array of jobs, mostly ironwork and bartender, he said, but he additionally approved to accomplish it as advance guitarist in a heavy-metal band.
That aftermost gig didn’t assignment out, he joked, because although he had long, abounding beard — abundant heavy-metal beard — and looked actually acceptable dancing with a guitar, he has a awful faculty of rhythm.
He had scrapes with the law but was never bedevilled of a felony. One of his arrests came in Orange County in 1990, aback he went to bastille for hitting his girlfriend. He pleaded no challenge and served a year of probation.
At age 29, active in a pay-by-the-week auberge in South Florida, he absitively to about-face his activity around.
“I capital to accomplish money. I capital to be a white-collar guy,” he said.
His big breach came from his grandmother, with whom he was not close, and Santa Fe Association Academy – now Santa Fe Academy – both in Gainesville.
She bare addition to booty affliction of domiciliary affairs and offered him a bedchamber and an $8,500 academy loan. The association academy agreed to accept him, an eighth-grade dropout who had a GED.
His aing big breach came on the aboriginal day of law school, Jan. 3, 2000. That’s the day he met and fell for addition midlife law-school student, Melanie Freeman Carter, babe of then-Circuit Adjudicator Thomas G. Freeman, a politically able adjudicator in Sanford.
“She’s actually the best accolade for alteration my life,” he said.
The afterward December, aloof afterwards finals, they wed in a tiny commemoration at her ancestors church, St. Mark’s Presbyterian in Altamonte Springs.
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