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BREAKING: Priest to plead to lesser sentence in road-rage incident

The Episcopal priest accused of waving a gun July 5 in a road-rage incident on Florida’s Turnpike will plead g”no contest” to a lesser charge and get one year of probation, his lawyer and the prosecutor said Tuesday.

William Rian Adams, 35, of Fletcher, N.C., was charged with pointing a semi-automatic Glock 22 — a 15-round, .40-caliber pistol — from his red 2014 Corvette at Sharon Hughes, 54, and her son Christopher, 24, near Palm City in northern Martin County.

In about three hours of dashboard camera video, Adams adamantly denied waving a firearm. He insisted the gun, which he owned legally and for which he had a concealed-weapon permit, never came out from under his seat.

Watch FHP dashboard-camera video of the incident

Adams initially was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

On Friday morning in Martin County court, he is set to instead plead “no contest” to a charge of improper exhibition of a firearm, a first-degree misdemeanor, assistant state attorney Richard Bodek said Tuesday.

In the deal, Bodek said, Adams would have adjudication withheld and would be sentenced to one year of probation. As always, Bodek said, the deal isn’t a surety until the hearing.

Sharon Hughes said Monday she has not been notified of the change of plea but not the particulars. She said prosecutors have told her in recent weeks they were working on a deal. She said she planned to attend Friday’s hearing.

Christopher Hughes, told by a reporter the specifics of the agreement on Tuesday, said he did not want to comment until after Friday’s hearing.

“Given the high stakes involved with respect to these accusations, Mr. Adams will be entering into a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor. This means that Mr. Adams maintains his innocence, but is entering into the plea because it is in his best interest,” Adams’ attorney, Brian H. Mallonee of Fort Pierce, said via email Tuesday.

“As long as the judge agrees to accept the negotiated plea agreement that has been negotiated with the state, Mr. Adams will walk away from the situation without a criminal conviction and without serving any jail time,” Mallonee said. “Given all of the circumstances, it’s the right call.”

Adams still is listed as rector at Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher, a small town about 20 miles south of Asheville.

Adams “is on leave for a few weeks allowing him to focus on his family,” the church’s July 15 newsletter said. “We ask that you refrain from gossip or judgment and to hold him and his family in prayer.”

A call to the church and an email to the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina weren’t returned. The diocese did issue a statement from its bishop just after the incident, saying in part that Adams and his family are receiving “pastoral care.”

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