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Fla. boy convicted of murder in wrestling imitation case

WASHINGTON (BP)–A 13-year-old Florida boy on trial for killing a girl while allegedly imitating pro-wrestling moves has now become one of the youngest murder defendants in state history to be convicted as an adult on charges of first-degree murder, CNSNews.com reported Jan.25.

Prosecutors argued that Lionel Tate, who weighs 180 pounds, knew he was hurting 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick when he stomped, kicked and punched her.

The 48-pound girl died from her injuries, which included blunt force trauma, contusions and fractures.

Jim Lewis, Tate’s attorney, said pro wrestling was their main defense, because Lionel is “immature” and didn’t understand that pro wrestlers are trained not to hurt each other.

“He wanted to emulate them,” Lewis said. “Like Batman and Superman, they were his heroes. He loved to play.”

According to Florida law, the Broward Circuit court jurors did not have to conclude that Lionel meant to kill the girl in their Jan. 25 verdict, but only that his actions were intentional and abusive.

Broward County prosecutor Ken Padowitz said he originally offered a plea agreement for Tate to spend three years in a juvenile facility, a year of “house arrest and community control” and then 10 years of probation with community service and psychological counseling.

“That offer was not accepted, and although I maintained that offer repeatedly over a period of time, the defendant had a right to have a trial and to have the state prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt…” said Padowitz.

Tate faces life without parole, but the governor could impose a milder sentence after hearing from the prosecutor. Because he is younger than 16, he does not face the death penalty.

Lewis said he plans to appeal and will possibly ask President Bush for clemency. “I don’t think anybody associated with this case thinks that this kid ought to spend the rest of his life in prison,” Lewis said.
Hunter is the evening editor with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Melanie Hunter