A Jacksonville man was found guilty of six counts of aggravated assault for firing into the air and then in the direction of six people in front of his home last summer. Randal Ratledge was convicted last week and now faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison on each count, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The judge, however, could choose to run the Jacksonville Gun Crimes sentences at the same time, meaning Ratledge could be sentenced to the minimum of 20 years – even though he was found guilty on six counts. Ratledge is 56, so a sentence of much more than 20 years could essentially end up being a life sentence.
Ratledge was outside talking with friends and neighbors when he and his wife went inside, the newspaper reported. The couple began to argue and Ratledge then walked outside, shooting into the air and then in the direction of people until Ratledge eventually dropped the gun after a struggle and then went inside, the newspaper reported. Ratledge did not have a criminal record prior to this Jacksonville Gun Crime incident and his Duval County criminal defense attorney argued that Ratledge had a bad reaction with the sleeping pill Ambien and was not guilty by involuntary intoxication, the newspaper reported. The jury did not agree and convicted him after less than an hour of deliberations. The state had offered Ratledge a plea deal that would have allowed him to serve 10 years in prison, but he declined, the newspaper reported. The details of the offer almost certainly came from the state and are part of prosecutors now defending themselves from criticism on seeking minimum mandatory sentences too often on cases like Ratledge’s.
Under Florida’s 10-20-Life laws, there are minimum mandatory sentences established for crimes involving firearms. If a person shows a gun during the commission of a felony, a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years could apply. If the gun is fired, the minimum is 20 years if convicted. And if someone is hit, it can trigger a life sentence. These are mandatory on a conviction. But the state can negotiate sentences below those numbers if prosecutors choose. They did in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, offering 10 years, though the defense obviously declined the deal. One thing to keep in mind for minimum mandatory sentences: defendants must serve every day of the sentence. In traditional sentences, people usually serve 85 percent of the sentence, so the 10 years is really more likely to be 8-1/2. Taking a case to trial will almost always up the ante for a potential sentence – especially in cases where a minimum mandatory applies. But, it’s also unlikely for someone to take 10 years in prison for something they may not believe they are guilty of. The stakes are high in Jacksonville Gun Crime Cases, and our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will lay out all of the options for you or your loved one so you can make an informed decision going forward.
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 Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.