Former race car driver John Paul Sr. pleaded guilty Wednesday to a state charge of attempted first-degree murder in the wounding of a federal drug witness.
After rejecting a plea-bargain agreement offered two weeks ago, Paul, 47, changed his mind five days before his scheduled trial date. The agreement calls for him to receive a sentence not to exceed 20 years in prison and for the state sentence to run concurrently with any sentences imposed against him later in federal court.
Circuit Judge Richard Weinberg delayed sentencing until after resolution of the federal charges, which include a count of running a continuing criminal enterprise that could carry a sentence of life imprisonment.
The state agreed to drop charges of attempted kidnapping, use of a firearm after conviction for a felony, and failure to appear for trial. Defense attorney Ed Garland had originally declined the plea-bargain agreement because of a dispute over the number of years Paul should serve, but attorneys declined to give details.
Paul could have faced a state sentence of life in prison if convicted of the attempted murder of Stephen Carson.
Carson, of St. Augustine, was shot five times in April 1983 at Crescent Beach. He recovered from his wounds but suffered some permanent disability.
Paul was returned to the United States in March, more than a year after he was arrested in Switzerland on a federal fugitive warrant. He had fled before a scheduled December 1983 trial.
Federal charges accuse Paul of conspiring to smuggle 200,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States from Colombia between 1975 and 1983.
Paul also faces a 1984 federal indictment on 17 counts involving money laundering. Another grand jury indictment accuses him of making a false statement to obtain a passport.
Paul, from Lawrenceville, Ga., and his son John Paul Jr. won five consecutive racing victories as a team in 1981 and 1982.
John Paul Jr. was sentenced May 7 to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to racketeering in a plea-bargain agreement.
As part of a plea agreement, John Paul Jr. will not be asked to testify against his father in the drug case.