Friday, May 23, 2008

Man pleads guilty, will testify in homeless beating death

AP Legal Affairs Writer

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - One of the three men accused of fatally beating a homeless man as he slept on a park bench pleaded guilty Friday and agreed to testify against the others.

William Ammons, 20, could have gotten a life prison sentence if convicted at trial of first degree murder. But under an agreement with prosecutors, Ammons pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and aggravated battery and will face between 10 and 20 years in prison.

Police said Ammons and two others fatally beat 45-year-old Norris Gaynor during a violent spree in which two other homeless men were also attacked but survived. One of those Jan. 12, 2006 attacks with baseball bats was captured on surveillance video and broadcast around the world - a clip that also led police to the suspects.

Ammons confessed his role in the attacks in a videotaped statement to police, a confession his lawyer sought unsuccessfully to have thrown out. In the Gaynor attack, prosecutors said Ammons fired pellets from a paintball gun but did not inflict fatal injuries.

Broward County Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato set Ammons' sentencing for Aug. 20. No trial date has been set for co-defendants Brian Hooks, 20, and Thomas Daugherty, 19, both of whom have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bail.

Imperato has imposed a gag order on prosecutors and defense lawyers, preventing them from commenting about the case to reporters.

Prosecutors previously ruled out the death penalty for any of the three because Daugherty was 17 at the time of the attacks. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that people under age 18 cannot be executed.

No comments: