M I A M I, March 13, 2001 -- Lionel Tate, the 14-year-old boy serving a lifesentence for the murder of a 6-year-old family friend, is now in ajuvenile prison, having been transferred three days after heentered an adult prison.
Officials secretly moved Tate on Monday night, shifting him fromthe South Florida Reception Center near Miami to the maximumsecurity Okeechobee Juvenile Offender Center about 100 miles to thenorth.
He will be kept with 47 other boys convicted of violent crimes,said Catherine Arnold, a spokeswoman with the Department ofJuvenile Justice. The facility also houses 48 male sex offenderswho are segregated in a separate wing. Arnold said Tuesday that Tate was being evaluated and will soonbe assigned an education program, a counselor and mental healthtreatment. "Whatever his particular needs are, after evaluation, thoseneeds will be addressed," Arnold said. Tate will be kept at Okeechobee for the foreseeable future, shesaid, unless he becomes violent or disruptive. He would be sentback to an adult prison if that happens, she said. Jim Lewis, Tate's attorney, did not immediately return a callfor comment Tuesday. Tate received a mandatory life sentence Friday for the 1999murder of Tiffany Eunick, whom his mother was baby-sitting. Tate says he accidentally killed the girl while imitating prowrestlers, but a jury rejected that defense, convicting him offirst-degree murder. The girl suffered numerous injuries, includinga skull fracture and a severed liver. Lewis said Monday that a notice of appeal will be filed thisweek in addition to a request for clemency with the governor. Janet Keels, coordinator for the Office of Executive Clemency inTallahassee, said prisoners are not normally eligible for clemencyuntil they have served two years of their sentence, but Gov. JebBush can waive that requirement. It normally takes a year toprocess the request, but the governor can also order thatexpedited, she said.
If that happens, investigators would prepare a reportinterviewing everyone involved in the case, including prosecutorKen Padowitz, Broward County Judge Joel Lazarus, who oversaw histrial, and Tiffany's mother, Deweese Eunick-Paul. The request would then be considered by the governor and the sixindependently elected members of the state cabinet. For it to begranted, the governor and at least three members of the cabinetmust agree. "It's not exactly the federal pardon system," Keels said. Shesaid the next scheduled clemency hearing is in June. Bush's spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for commentTuesday, but has previously said he would have no comment on theclemency request, particularly since it hasn't been received. Padowitz has said he'll recommend the governor shorten Tate'ssentence, but wouldn't say by how much. Before trial, Padowitzoffered Tate a plea bargain of three years in a juvenile prison, ayear of house arrest and 10 years of probation, but the defenserejected the offer. Lewis said Monday that while he now thinks the three-yearsentence initially offered by Padowitz was fair, he thinks Lionelshould be released immediately. "He has been punished enough," Lewis said. Eunick-Paul told CBS's "The Early Show" on Tuesday that whileshe thinks three years would have been a light sentence, she is notopposed to Tate eventually being released. "That would give Lionel a chance to at least try to getrehabilitated," Eunick-Paul said.
But she disputed the claims by Tate and his mother, FloridaHighway Patrol trooper Kathleen Grossett-Tate, that Tiffany's deathwas an accident. "You don't play with that kind of force," she said. "Mydaughter's body spoke for itself."