A frequent resident of the Florida prison system from Miami Gardens pleaded guilty to being a felon possessing a firearm. His frequent short prison stays may turn into a long-term stay in federal prison.
James Bell’s guilty plea means he will get at least a 15-year sentence if the court decides he was an armed career criminal. He did six stints in Florida prisons from 1983-2013. Bell, currently at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami, will be sentenced April 20.
Prosecution by the state in Miami-Dade court would be unlikely to result in the hard time Bell faces from the conviction in federal court.
The confrontation that will put Bell, 52, behind bars this time occurred outside the Universal Supermarket, 3601 NW 191st St., last May 31.
Bell shot a man in the face, then left in his girlfriend Princess Soto’s white Chevrolet Impala. A witness followed the car, according to evidence presented at trial, while calling 911. Miami Gardens police quickly located and stopped the car.
Officers say that when they asked for Soto’s license and registration, she gave them permission to go into her purse to retrieve them. That’s also where the gun used in the shooting happened to be.
A ballistics test confirmed it as the gun in the shooting. Surveillance video footage showed the dark, red-lettered sweatshirt police say they found in Soto’s car. Bell still wore the same pants and shoes seen on the video.