- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Despite pleas from his family members, Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday turned down a request to release from a prison a central Florida man jailed for firing a warning shot.

The case of Orville Lee Wollard, who has served seven years of a 20-year sentence for aggravated assault, was cited as one of the reasons that the state needed to change the 10-20-Life law. That’s the 1999 mandatory minimum law that requires anyone who shows a gun while committing certain felonies to 10 years in prison. If someone is shot and wounded, the sentence increases to 25 years to life.

Scott last year signed into law a measure that allows an exception to the gun law if someone fires a warning shot. But that change didn’t apply to people already in jail. Wollard, who is now 60 years old, asked the governor and the state’s clemency board to consider a request to commute his prison sentence.

Wollard in 2008 fired a shot inside his Polk County house to scare his teenage daughter’s boyfriend after an argument between the couple. Sarah Wollard, the daughter, told Scott and members of the state’s clemency board that she was using drugs and she was angry at her father. She said the shooting was reported to police weeks after it happened because he had stopped her from trying to leave their house.

“I know that I was a horrible daughter back then and that I can’t change anything, but what I can do is now take responsibility and tell the truth,” Sarah Wollard said.

Orville Lee Wollard, who had no criminal history, at the time was offered a plea deal of five years’ probation and no jail time but he turned it down. State Attorney Jerry Hill, whose office prosecuted the case, argued strongly to the governor and other elected officials on the clemency board that Wollard did not deserve to be released from prison.

Hill said that Wollard came inches from killing someone and shouldn’t be seen as a “poster child” for problems with the state’s gun laws.

“He wasn’t defending himself and he wasn’t defending his family,” Hill said. “It’s not a murder charge by 3 or 4 inches.”

Under Florida’s clemency process the governor can single-handedly turn down a request. It takes approval by the governor and two other elected officials to approve a request.

Scott did not say directly why he opposed the request to commute Wollard’s sentence. But right after the decision he said that he and other clemency board information are given background information on everything from past drug use to other run-ins with law enforcement that is not publicly presented during the meetings.

“We are responsible for the 20 million people who live in this state and continue to make sure they’re safe,” Scott said. “And at the same time make sure that we are fair as we can be.”


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