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Lawyer Blamed for 30-Year Lionel Tate Sentence

Posted Apr 13, 2007 3:00 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A now-deceased Miami lawyer known for his unconventional defense strategies is being blamed in a motion filed this week for the 30-year sentence his former child client, Lionel Tate, received for a probation violation.

Tate, whose original 2001 life sentence, at age 14, for murdering a 6-year-old child two years earlier made the news worldwide, was later sentenced to a 10-year term of probation for the crime. It didn't take him long, however, to get into more trouble.

Charged in 2005 with armed robbery for holding up a pizza deliveryman with a handgun, he pleaded guilty in 2006 to a probation violation based on this offense and was sentenced to 30 years. His then-lawyer Ellis Rubin described the deal to Associated Press as the best his client could get because of the "overwhelming" evidence against him.

Now Tate is be tried Monday on the robbery charge arising from this same incident, and if he is convicted, he could be sentenced to life. Trying to reduce the potential robbery penalty, Tate's current lawyers are seeking to overturn the 30-year probation violation sentence, claiming that Rubin was ineffective as his counsel, the AP reports.

Tate has turned down several plea deals over the years that, with the benefit of hindsight, he probably should have accepted.

Perhaps Rubin's former law partner, Robert Barrar, had these in mind when he defended Rubin, telling the Miami Herald today, "'If that young man listened to Ellis and what Ellis was advising him, he'd be in a much better position than he is today. Ellis was absolutely competent. This young man did not listen to his lawyer from day one. Had he listened to Ellis, he'd be facing a lot less time than he is now.''

Details of Tate's original murder conviction are given in this Court TV profile.

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