- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Lionel Tate was sentenced yesterday to 30 years in prison on charges of violating probation, the latest legal twist for the teenager convicted of murdering a 6-year-old girl in what his attorneys initially said was a professional-wrestling move.

Tate, now 19, was convicted of beating Tiffany Eunick to death in 1999, when he was 12.

His murder conviction was overturned by an appeals court in 2004 after the panel found it wasn’t clear whether Tate understood the charges. He was freed from prison under a deal in which he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years of probation.

In the latest case, Tate had faced 10 to 30 years in prison on charges of violating his probation by having a gun and robbing a pizza delivery man last year.

Tate originally had pleaded guilty to the May 2005 robbery, but the judge yesterday let him withdraw his plea while still sentencing him on the gun charge. The robbery trial is set for Sept. 18.

Even defense attorney H. Dohn Williams said he didn’t understand why Tate would want to go to trial on the robbery charge, given that a conviction could bring a life sentence in addition to the 30 years for the probation violation. Tate could have received 30 years total for both charges under the deal.

“He continues to get bad advice from meddling third parties,” Mr. Williams said outside court.

Mr. Williams said Tate’s mother, Florida Highway Patrol trooper Kathleen Grossett-Tate, has told him he could win an appeal on the probation violation conviction, win his robbery case and leave jail in a year. She left court without commenting.

Mr. Williams pleaded with the judge for leniency, blaming Tate’s criminal behavior on his upbringing.

“The death of Tiffany Eunick would never have occurred if there had been proper parental guidance and control,” Mr. Williams said. “Six-year-old Tiffany tragically died while … roughhousing with a 6-year-old boy in a 12-year-old’s body.”

Broward County Circuit Judge Joel T. Lazarus said Tate has shown “disdain and disrespect” for the law after repeated opportunities to redeem himself after his release from prison on the murder charge.

“In plain English, you’ve run out of chances. You do not get any more,” the judge said.

Since his release from prison in 1999, Tate has had numerous encounters with police.

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