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Tate's Lawyer Says Witness Has Recanted

June 23, 2005|From Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A 13-year-old boy has recanted his claim that Lionel Tate -- the youngest American once sentenced to life in prison -- robbed a pizza deliveryman at gunpoint, Tate's lawyer said Wednesday.

Lawyer James Lewis said the boy, Taquincy Tomkins, has now told private investigators that a 16-year-old whom Taquincy knows only as "Willie" committed the May 23 robbery.

Taquincy said he blamed Tate under pressure from sheriff's investigators and because "Willie" had threatened to kill him, according to a transcript provided by Lewis.

A judge has scheduled a hearing today on whether the recantation warrants Tate's release on bail.

Sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal said that new physical evidence linking Tate to the crime would be presented at the hearing, and that the deliveryman had not wavered in identifying Tate as the culprit.

Tate, now 18, beat and stomped a 6-year-old girl to death in 1999, when he was 12. Tate initially said he was trying out wrestling moves he had seen on television. The case touched off a debate over Florida's prosecution of juveniles as adults.

Tate's life sentence was overturned on appeal, and he was released on a plea bargain after serving three years.

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