Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lionel Tate pleads no contest to pizza holdup

BY HANNAH SAMPSON hsampson@MiamiHerald.com

Lionel Tate pleaded no contest Tuesday to robbery charges.

Tate, who is accused of robbing a pizza delivery man in Pembroke Park in May 2005, was still on probation for killing his 6-year-old playmate, Tiffany Eunick, in 1999.

Tate, 21, will not serve any extra time in prison.

The defense and prosecutors negotiated a deal in which Tate would serve 10 years, to run at the same time as the 30 years he is already serving for violating his probation by committing robbery.

Jury selection in the robbery trial was set to begin Tuesday.

Assistant State Attorney Chuck Morton said there was some DNA evidence that connected Tate to the crime, but some that connected other people as well. Some witnesses also recanted their statements.

''It didn't make much sense to proceed to a trial,'' Morton said.

Tate's attorney, Jim Lewis, said Tate was involved in taking pizzas from the delivery man's car but didn't pull a gun on the man.

Lewis said he will ask Broward County Judge Joel Lazarus to revisit the 30-year sentence for violating probation.

''We are not saying that what Lionel did was right,'' Lewis said. ``Thirty years is crazy.''

Tate's mother, Kathleen Grossett-Tate, left court Tuesday, saying: ``I'm tired of the whole system, the whole case. I'm just tired.''

At 14, Tate was believed to be the youngest person sentenced to life in prison in the United States, for Tiffany's death. An appeals court overturned the conviction, and a plea agreement led to his January 2004 release.

He previously pleaded guilty to robbing the delivery man and violating his probation in 2006, but withdrew the guilty plea on the robbery.

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