Killer at 12, Tate returns to prison for 30 years Judge: 'You have run out of chances' Thursday, May 18, 2006; Posted: 1:31 p.m. EDT (17:31 GMT) FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) -- A Florida teenager, one of the youngest people to serve a life sentence until his conviction was overturned, returned to prison Thursday for 30 years for violating probation. It was the latest twist in a legal saga that began with the death of a 6-year-old girl. Lionel Tate, now 19, was 12 when he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 beating death of Tiffany Eunick. His lawyers claimed at the time that Tate was imitating a pro wrestling move he had seen on television while playing with the girl. His murder conviction was overturned by an appeals court in 2004 after the panel found it wasn't clear whether Tate understood the charges. He was freed from prison under a deal in which he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years' probation. Under the latest charge, Tate had faced between 10 and 30 years in prison for violating his probation by having a gun and allegedly robbing a pizza delivery man last year. Tate entered a plea bargain earlier this year, but parted ways with his lawyer and asked to withdraw his guilty plea in the May 2005 robbery, saying he didn't fully understand it. The judge on Thursday allowed Tate to withdraw the guilty plea, but still sentenced him on the gun charge. The robbery trial is set for September 18. Even Tate's new defense attorney, H. Dohn Williams, didn't understand why Tate would want to go to trial on the robbery charge, given that a conviction could bring a life sentence in addition to the 30 years for the probation violation. Tate could have received 30 years total for both charges under the deal. "He continues to get bad advice from meddling third parties," Williams said outside court. Williams said Tate's mother, Florida Highway Patrol trooper Kathleen Grossett-Tate, has told him he could win an appeal on the probation violation conviction, win his robbery case and leave jail in a year. She left court without commenting. Williams pleaded with the judge for leniency, blaming Tate's criminal behavior on his upbringing. "The death of Tiffany Eunick would never have occurred if there had been proper parental guidance and control," Williams said. "Six-year-old Tiffany tragically died while ... roughhousing with a 6-year-old boy in a 12-year-old's body." Broward County Circuit Judge Joel T. Lazarus said Tate has shown "disdain and disrespect" for the law after repeated opportunities to redeem himself following his release from prison on the murder charge. "In plain English, you've run out of chances. You do not get any more," the judge said. Since his release from prison in 1999, Tate has had numerous encounters with police. On October 29, 2004, Lazarus sentenced Tate to an additional five years probation for having a knife. Tate was arrested on the robbery charge the next year, and while in custody was charged with criminal mischief for an altercation in jail. Last month, Lazarus ruled for the second time that Tate was competent to face the robbery charge after Tate claimed he was mentally ill from years of abuse by his mother. He had claimed he was hearing voices and contemplating suicide, a story he later admitted was a ruse. ---------------------------------------------- Lucky he didn't kill anyone else while he was free.