Attorney: Tate's mom approves of plea bargain
Published: Thursday, January 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 1, 2004 at 12:28 a.m.
MIAMI - The mother of a teenager who once received a life sentence for murdering a 6-year-old playmate supports a plea bargain that would allow him to be released within three months, an attorney said Wednesday.
Richard Rosenbaum, Lionel Tate's attorney, said Kathleen Grossett-Tate approves of the 16-year-old signing a plea agreement offered by Broward County prosecutors. The deal would let him plead guilty to second-degree murder and serve only the remaining three months of a three-year prison sentence, followed by house arrest and probation.
"I am thrilled that Lionel's mother agreed that it's better to be locked in one's home rather than jail when you're still only a child," Rosenbaum said.
The plea bargain is identical to one Tate and his mother declined before his 2001 trial for killing Tiffany Eunick in July 1999 when he was 12. The Tates had insisted he was innocent.
Rosenbaum said the teenager had been awaiting his mother's approval and estimated his client could be released from prison by Jan. 29. The deal would include credit for two months time served in the county jail before he was sentenced in 2001 but it would need to be ratified by a judge, he said.
Michael Hursey, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer advising Grossett-Tate, said he could not immediately comment. Henry Hunter, a Tallahassee lawyer also advising Tate's mother, did not immediately return a message on his cell phone or at his law firm.
Grossett-Tate's lawyers had said she preferred her son be allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter instead of second-degree murder.
Grossett-Tate was expected to visit her son this weekend in a maximum-security juvenile prison before he signed the deal, Rosenbaum said.
"Lionel Tate is ready to move on to the next stage of his life. He grieves every day over Tiffany's death and will think of her and the terrible tragedy for the rest of his life," Rosenbaum said.
Once Tate signs the deal, he would need to be examined by doctors to determine whether he was competent, Rosenbaum said.
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