The twists and turns in the now-well known case of Clay County man Ronald Thompson took another turn last week - this one in favor of Thompson. A judge threw out his conviction on four counts of Clay County aggravated assault stemming from a September 2009 incident, according to an article in the Florida Times-Union. The judge ruled that the jury instructions were unclear regarding the Florida justifiable use of deadly and non-deadly force. Thompson had become another prime example people cite when they argue against the use of mandatory minimum sentences, which Jacksonville-area prosecutors are filing left and right these days. Thompson was convicted of firing at least two shots into the ground in the direction of a teenager and his friends. The teenager was arguing with his grandmother, whom Thompson was there visiting, according to the newspaper.
Because the state did not waive the minimum mandatory sentence - the judge was forced by law to sentence Thompson to 20 years in prison. But that judge disagreed and sentenced him anyway to just three years - the last offer on the table from the state during negotiations. The state appealed, successfully had the judge removed from the case, and a new judge sentenced him to 20 years. But that new judge is also the one that reversed the conviction last week. Prosecutors will no doubt appeal that decision, too.
The big question now is whether the state will take the case to trial in Clay County again, or allow Thompson, who has already served close to three years in prison, to plead guilty and agree for his sentence to be the time he has already served. From a Clay County criminal defense perspective, and as a taxpayer, that is the right thing to do. There's no reason to go through another trial against an Army veteran in ill health without a violent criminal record. But many cases aren't looked at individually now. The state looks at setting precedent and preparing its playing field for future decisions. Why else would the state appeal the three-year sentence? It appears to have far less to do with Thompson's threat to society than the appearance that a judge got one over on the State Attorney's Office. Knowing the law and its ramifications is crucial for a Clay County Criminal Defense Lawyer, but knowing the relationships and politics at play is equally important. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented thousands of clients and had cases with hundreds of different prosecutors. That knowledge and experience can be key when it comes to the case of you or your loved one, knowing when to push a case to trial and when the state may be willing to negotiate more than its letting on.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Gun Crime Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.