Teen imprisoned in killing to be helped on release

Youth, youngest to get life, set to sign plea deal today

January 04, 2004|By Paula McMahon | Paula McMahon,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

Lionel Tate, the youngest American ever sentenced to life in prison, will have a lot of people ready to help him ease back into society when he accepts a plea agreement and is released, probably at the end of this month.

"It's going to be a lot of pressure on Lionel and on his mother by herself, so we are all working together to put a support team in place," said the Rev. Dennis Grant of Margate, a pastor and activist who has helped many young convicts.

Tate was 12 when he was charged with beating Tiffany Eunick, 6, to death in July 1999.

He will meet today with his mother, Kathleen Grossett-Tate, to sign off on the formal plea agreement drawn up by Broward County prosecutors, Henry Hunter, Grossett-Tate's attorney, told the Associated Press yesterday.

Tate, who turns 17 this month, will plead guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for three years in prison, most of which he has served. He will also do a year of house arrest, 1,000 hours of community service and 10 years of probation.

"He was excited and even more anxious to get out and get on with having a productive life," said Tate's attorney, Richard Rosenbaum, after speaking by phone with Tate on Thursday.

As supporters celebrated the news that Tate will accept the plea offer, they also thanked Tiffany's mother, Deweese Eunick-Paul, for her compassion.

"The whole community feels such gratitude to Tiffany's mother for giving him this second chance," said Grant. "We will always remember Tiffany, and we will always remember that Deweese has lost her daughter. And now we will try to help Lionel to make the best of a bad situation and give him the support he will need."

The Rev. Thomas Masters of Riviera Beach, who also lobbied for Tate, echoed that thought.

"To me, the real hero is little Tiffany's mother," Masters said.

While on house arrestLionel Tate will have to schedule his days in advance with a community control officer and will be closely monitored. He will be allowed out for school, church and medical appointments and will begin his community service.

Cheryl Zickler, another of Tate's attorneys, said psychologists from the Dan Marino Center at Miami Children's Hospital have offered to provide Tate with therapy to help him adjust from incarceration to house arrest and then freedom. He will also get help planning for his education and a future job.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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