A teen who was given a second chance after he beat and stomped a little girl to death when he was 12 has been accused of holding up a pizza delivery man at gunpoint and was ordered held without bond Wednesday.
Lionel Tate, now 18, touched off a debate over Florida’s practice of prosecuting juveniles as adults when he became the youngest person in modern U.S. history to be sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 killing of 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick. He initially blamed her death on wrestling moves he said he copied from television.
In ordering him held without bond, Judge Jerry Pollock overruled objections by his attorney that the charges against Tate were based on conflicting evidence. Attorney James Lewis said the teenager is a victim of mistaken identity and his past.
Pollock said Tate cannot be released on bond because he’s being held on a probation violation stemming from the Eunick case.
Tate appeared via video hookup at the hearing but did not speak.
Incident at apartment
Tate was arrested Monday and charged with holding up Domino’s Pizza delivery man Walter Gallardo at gunpoint at a friend’s Pembroke Pines apartment. Tate also is charged with forcing his way into the friend’s apartment and roughly shoving the 12-year-old boy aside.
Lewis said that Gallardo has given media interviews indicating that the assailant wore a bandanna that concealed his face. He said Gallardo also described the robber as wearing clothes different from what Tate had on.
“I think there’s been a rush to judgment,” Lewis told reporters after the hearing. “I think there’s been a mistake made.”
Lewis also questioned reports that Tate was found by police calmly eating the pizza with his friends on the steps of the apartment building where the crime allegedly happened. “It makes no sense,” Lewis said.
Mom a state trooper
Kathleen Grossett-Tate, Tate’s mother and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, told The Miami Herald that her son is innocent and that she would stand by him as she did during the murder case.
Tate again faces the possibility of a long stretch in prison, especially since a judge last October said he would have “zero tolerance” for probation violations after Tate was caught with a knife blocks from his home late at night.
The hulking, 160-pound boy had claimed at first that he killed Tiffany while imitating pro wrestling, then later said he accidentally hurt the girl when he jumped on her from a staircase. But experts said the girl died of skull fractures and a lacerated liver in a beating that lasted up to five minutes.
A jury convicted him of first-degree murder, triggering an automatic life sentence. The sentence was overturned on appeal and Tate was released on a plea bargain after serving three years. The plea deal placed him under house arrest for a year, followed by probation for 10 years.