Florida Man Fires Four Shots Into The Air And Is Given 20 Years Per Shot To Run Consecutively or 80 Years In Prison

met_-font color='%23FF0000'--b-Ronald--b---font-_-font color='%23FF0000'--b-WiThe Florida Supreme Court is considering a case that raises the limits of state law in a case with a facially excessive sentence. Ronald Williams, 29, fired five shots in the air to scare off what he said were four gay men flirting with him. He was conviction in 2010 of four counts of aggravated assault. However, the trial judge said that state law required that each count — effectively each bullet — be sentenced consecutively rather than concurrently. The result is an excessive 80 year sentence.

Even at 20 years, the sentence would have been remarkably tough and many would argue excessive. However, 80 years is unbelievable. Yet, in oral argument, one of the most liberal members of the Court expressed doubt that the Court could do anything about it in light of the state’s 10-20-life law.

The prosecutors are pushing to keep the mandatory language and preserve the 80 year sentence. The defense however noted that, while the 10-20-life was being debated in the Legislature, a summary of the bill in the Florida House of Representatives stated “this does not prohibit a judge from imposing the sentences concurrently.” The biggest problem is the language of the law.

The law says “The court shall impose any term of imprisonment provided for in this subsection consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed for any other felony offense.” While the defense argued that consecutive sentences applied only to felonies unrelated to the gun offense, Justice Barbara Pariente noted the problem with the “shall” verb: “There’s no question this is a grossly disproportionate sentence and it may not have been what the Legislature intended. But I still don’t see how ‘shall’ can mean ‘may.'” Justice Charles Canady also noted that the legislature stated in another section of the 10-20-life law that said all offenders should be punished to the “fullest extent of the law.”

That would leave a sentence that should shock the conscience of the court. The problem is that the Supreme Court has effectively gutted the limitation on such sentencings under the Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment clause. In Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63 (2003), the Court ruled that it did not violate the Constitution for a California jury to impose a 50 years to life sentence under its three-strikes law for a man convicted of shoplifting nine videotapes from a KMart. These petty theft charges would normally be treated as misdemeanors with a $150 fine, but the court and prosecutor insisted on treating them as a felony to trigger the three-strikes law.

On the same day, the Court upheld the sentence of Gary Ewing who stole three golf clubs worth $399 each from the pro shop of the El Segundo Golf Course in El Segundo, California. Again, the Court in Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11 (2003), upheld the 25-to-life sentence under California’s three strikes law in a decision by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

The problem with this case is that it would be hard to see the deterrent or the retributive value of this sentence. Eighty years for four shots in the air would make a Sharia judge blush.

49 thoughts on “Florida Man Fires Four Shots Into The Air And Is Given 20 Years Per Shot To Run Consecutively or 80 Years In Prison

  1. No end to the insanity. If he had just shot the harassers he would have had a chance for freedom under Florida’s stand your ground law.

    Shoot the person and there is a chance the judge will throw the case out, shoot in the air and do 20.

    I wonder if under SYG, reasonable fear for your life includes the fear that if you do not shoot at the other person you will be put away for the rest of your life?

    At least the Florida legislature has not resorted to public hangings – yet.

  2. I don’t think a lot of people realize that what goes up must come down. Firing a gun into the air is dangerous and someone could end up hurt – or dead. Fortunately no one was injured – or killed – and sentencing this man to 80 years is crazy extreme.

  3. Eighty years for four shots in the air would make a Sharia judge blush.” – JT

    Good point.

    Sharia on steroids?

    Maybe that is why the wing-nuts don’t want Sharia Law … it is too lenient?

  4. I don’t recall studying Abner Doubleday in Jurisprudence.

    In fact, I don’t even recall learning the legal effect of idioms.

    An idiom is defined as a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.

    Seems to me that making the idiom “three strikes and you’re out” a legal maxim is “bush league” law making by legislators so obsessed with “grandstanding” they don’t care how “out of left field” the resulting sentences might be.

    Perhaps it’s time for the Supreme Court to “step up to the plate” and issue a “brush-back” ruling to these state legislatures; putting an end to this grammatical nonsense and starting “a whole new ball game.”

    I mean, what’s next; allowing the President to exercise war powers by claiming he’s fighting a “war on terror?”

    Could you imagine?

  5. Bob, Esq – since Abner Doubleday is not the inventor of baseball to begin with, there was no reason to study him in law school, unless you were studying sports law. However, analogies help people understand complex issues. I think the ‘three-strikes’ analogy came from the legislature.

  6. Shooting in the air is a nuisance violation. Not a misdemeanor or a felony. On Fourth of July folks around here shoot in the air without a blink of the eye from the cops or robbers. It is free speech. It is stand your ground against faggots. And Florida makes it on this blog each day for the worst bunch of justice providers in the so called Free World. Florida is up there with Nigeria. All you folks who moved there because it was too cold in Jersey need to re-think. Gitmo is safer.

  7. This is what we call a “Sundown Town”. N guy don’t let the sun go down on you in this town. Google Search it folks. Forty years ago this August, Justice Marshall warned me not to go practice civil rights law in Cairo, IL without a rifle because it was a Sundown Town. He had been there to litigate a case in the forties.

  8. Every week I read of some selfish bleep who drinks to excess, gets in his car, mows down pedestrians, and is given probation. Nobody forced the booze down their throat.

    But this guy receives a life sentence. I’ll bet political-correctness played a role here. There are all kinds of individuals and groups trumpeting special rights for gays, yet we never hear of the same treatment for redheads (commit suicide because of hazing), albinos (slaughtered in Africa by witch doctors), Native Americans, and other unimportant minorities.

    @Bob, Esq. wrote “allowing the President to exercise war powers by claiming he’s fighting a ‘war on terror’?”

    Imagine the reaction if FDR had declared that we were fighting a “war on racism.”

    Not to mention that our idiot Congress allowed Bush the Younger to get away with it.

  9. Bob Esq., This poor SOB is going to have to play it “one game @ a time.” He may have to “sacrifice” himself in order to move the law forward. You would think making this travesty right would be a “can o’ corn” but we know there is “no clock” in legal matters. I’m starting to sicken myself, so I’ll stop w/ the axioms.

  10. Paul C. Schulte wrote “FDR would never had declared a war on racism. He was a racist himself.”

    I plead nolo contendere and concede that my sentence was not the pinnacle of clarity. I was agreeing with Bob that declaring a war on a tactic, method, or philosophy is inane. FDR declared war on Japan, Germany, Italy, and the other Axis countries as he should have. Bush the Younger should have declared a war on radical Islam, with al-Qaeda being in the vanguard of the rhetoric.

  11. saucy – FDR could only ask for war to be declared. Congress declares war. What FDR did not was set up situations where the Axis countries would declare war on the USA.

  12. I think the judge handed down the punishment not for firing the four shots, but because the defendant is homophobic. It is the same exact motivation behind, for example, Christian bashing, a risk we all face when we do not agree with militant activist PC, be it from the left or right. In this way, the judge may be, instead, a militant, anti-gun activist, sending a warning shot over the bow of NRA members. Maybe this judge will be caught up in the Florida DUI sweep, if not for other dirt in the closet.

  13. ‘Shall’ ‘May’ Turley, that is not the issue. The issue here is that too much of America is still in the dark ages. This is not too far from hanging a horse thief. Sending a man to prison for the rest of his life for stealing golf clubs, 89 years for firing shots in the air, when scum like zimmerman get off, the rest of the world laughs at us. The US justice system is closer to those that we seem to criticize so often. The point of a judge is not to play word games but to match the sentence with the crime. The point of the judicial system is not to vent the spleens of mindless prosecutors but to keep dangerous people locked up. Yet we arm all comers to the teeth. Something is wrong here. Perhaps if we locked up a judge and prosecutor or too for simply being extremely stupid, that might do more for America than this barbaric system of ‘My hands are tied, that’s what the law says.’

  14. Isn’t this the Florida that champions a stand your ground law where you can KILL someone and yet you get 20 yrs for shooting into the air? Really? Gee, we’re getting better here. It took 11 posts for the race card to be played this time.

  15. My previous reply was not published. I will split it into two parts and see if that works.

    Paul C. Schulte wrote: “FDR could only ask for war to be declared. Congress declares war.”

    I am well aware of that. I was trying not to write a tome.

    Of course, that is very different today, with Congress ceding authority for approving treaties and starting wars via the many fast-track mechanisms and War Powers Resolution.

  16. Literally an insane sentence promoting real crime where persons are tortured to death or otherwise killed because ‘it makes no difference’, ‘no justice anyway’. Its like the overharsh sentences on statutory rape that encourage the perpetrator to torture and kill the victim next time as the sentence is the same.

  17. This guy shoots 4 times in the air to ward off 4 gay guys. And gets 80 years.

    In the mean time, Obama released the Taliban terrorist dream team. They vowed to come back harder and stronger than ever.
    You know what the Taliban due to gay guys? They kill them. And straight people too. And school girls too.

  18. That’s 20 years due to a bad law, plus 60 years for being born with brown skin. Imagine the media coverage and subsequent public outcry about this sentence if this were a wealthy white person who claimed the firing was to scare off young black men wearing hoodies.

  19. Does the guy who starts the race at the FL racetrack get 20 years when he fires the pistol and starts the race? This IS about race. FL is known for it. 20:1 odds this poor schmuck dies in prison.

  20. The article does not state whether the gay guys were white. We are talking Florida here. The defendant needs to start interposing some defenses into his case now. I would go with First Amendment right to speech, Second Amendment right to bear arms and fire them, Ninth Amendment right to privacy, and Fourteenth Amendment right to fair trial, due process, equal protection, and enforcement of the First, Second, Fourth, Sixth and Ninth Amendments in a State criminal proceeding. He needs the NRA to file an Amicus Brief in his appeal. He needs the Innocence Project.

  21. Bob Esq.
    I mean, what’s next; allowing the President to exercise war powers by claiming he’s fighting a “war on terror?”

    Could you imagine?
    = = =
    Never in America… I mean NEVER!
    We have Laws to follow.

  22. First, the police should not have arrested him but warned him about the use of a firearm in such a manner , second, once arrested, the prosecutor should not have charged him, but once charged, the judge should have thrown out the case, and once tried, the jury should have nullified the law and acquitted, and failing that, the judge should have exercised leniency and refused to follow the law on the basis of absurdity. Now it is in the hands of an appeals court and given the preceding, what hope does the poor sod have? Also, this total lack of common sense and empathy was driven by racism, so, so obviously.

  23. I read about some rich kid drunk driving, killed 4 people never spent a day in jail. Then there’s this billionaire who claims he’s a sex addict and that’s the reason he couldn’t keep his hands off his 12 y/o step daughter… a fine of $6,000 and four months in prison… “Billionaire”… The judge ruled that he must serve at least 60 days of the sentence before he will be eligible for release. So lets make it 2 months. Black man fires 4 warning shots into the air… LIFE!

  24. Rob Frazier, Good comment. That billionaire is SC Johnson, an heir to the Johnson family fortune. There was also another millionaire Florida rapist who got off incredibly light on Fed charges, I forget his name but he was a big political contributor.

  25. If they are going to unfairly punish that man like that, then why not prosecute the 4 gay guys for sexual harrassment for flirting with him, plus tack it on as a hate crime because they were sexually harassing a straight man for being straight.

  26. Wheel up to the legislature with a Guillotine like the French at Bastille and see if we can change these stupid laws that have imprisoned 6 million of our fellow citizens.

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