Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lionel Tate gets 10 years in pizza delivery robbery

FORT LAUDERDALE - Lionel Tate pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges stemming from the May 2005 robbery of a pizza delivery man.

Tate, dressed in tan slacks and a long-sleeved shirt, accepted a 10-year prison sentence to run concurrently with a 30-year sentence for violating his probation.

Tate, now 21, was convicted in 2001 of murdering first-grade playmate Tiffany Eunick when he was only 12. The conviction was overturned, and Tate later pleaded guilty to second degree murder in that case. He was sentenced to probation, which prosecutors say he violated by robbing a pizza delivery man in 2005. The violation earned him the 30-year sentence.

Had he been convicted of armed robbery with a deadly weapon, Tate could have faced life in prison.

Tate was 14 when he was sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 killing of Eunick, which happened when he was 12. Tate's lawyers initially claimed that the girl died accidentally while Tate imitated pro wrestling moves he had seen on television.

After his murder conviction was overturned on appeal in 2004, Tate reached a plea deal that included his release from prison on probation. It was this probation that a judge ruled he had violated through involvement in the pizza robbery.

If he had been convicted after a trial of the robbery charges, Tate could have received a life prison sentence once again. Tate had previously agreed in 2006 to plead guilty to the robbery, but withdrew it.

For now, Tate is tentatively scheduled for release from prison in May 2031, according to the state Department of Corrections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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