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Archive for Saturday, December 27, 2003

Plea bargain offered in Florida wrestling death

December 27, 2003

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— Prosecutors said Friday they had offered Lionel Tate a plea bargain that could mean almost immediate freedom for the boy whose murder conviction and life sentence in the slaying of a 6-year-old playmate were thrown out earlier this month.

The deal is identical to one Tate and his mother rejected in 2001, before he went to trial.

Richard Rosenbaum, Tate's appellate attorney, said he expected his client to make a decision in the next couple of weeks. He said he spoke to Tate Friday afternoon but declined to discuss their conversation.

Tate, now 16, beat 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick to death when he was 12, claiming he accidentally killed her while imitating pro wrestling moves he had seen on television.

He was tried as an adult, convicted of first-degree murder and received an automatic life-without-parole sentence in a case that led to international criticism of Florida's tough handling of juveniles who kill.

The plea bargain would let Tate plead guilty to second-degree murder and receive a sentence of three years in prison, of which he already has served 33 months, Broward County State Atty. Michael J. Satz said in a statement.

That would be followed by a year under house arrest and 10 years of probation. Tate would also have to undergo psychological treatment.

"This plea was the right thing to do before the trial and it's the right thing to do now," Satz spokesman Ron Ishoy said. He said no agreement had been yet reached with the family.

Rosenbaum said the offer would mean Tate could be released from prison on or near Jan. 25.

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