Deputies: Game-playing driver runs down two on sidewalk

- The Largo teacher accused of hitting two pedestrians and driving away won’t be getting behind the wheel anytime soon.

On Monday, a judge in Pinellas County court set 38-year-old Vincent Barone’s bond at $10,000 and said he was banned from driving as a condition of his release.

Barone’s first appearance came one day after Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office investigators say the Clearwater resident admitted he was playing a video game on his phone as he drove in Dunedin Sunday afternoon.

Barone’s defense attorney, Clearwater attorney Michael D. Kenny, said it was a tragic accident. Barone has no prior criminal history.

“When the dust settles, you might find out this is not your classic, someone driving away and having to be pulled out of the dark somewhere,” Kenny said. “This is an individual who brought this vehicle to a stop -- perhaps not as close as some people might like -- but was very cooperative at all times.”

Plato Academy, where Barone teaches science to middle school students, did not respond to a request for comment. A parent of two of Barone’s students spoke up for him in court Monday, saying he was a “good man” who cared about his students.

“It was an unfortunate accident,” parent Dina Zerbas told reporters outside the courthouse. “I don't think there's any adult who can say they haven't texted or looked at their phone when they're driving because we'd all be liars.”

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said the two victims were hospitalized with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.  They were recovering in intensive care after surgery as of Monday evening. 

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