Sick Ric Get's a Whupping on the OpEd Page

I've been posting for some time (see posts here and here.) about a vile judge named Rick Howard and the inexcusable sentence he imposed on William Thornton. Well, it seems the St. Petersburg times has picked up the case and they published the editorial listed below earlier this week. Let's hope it has an effect.

Sick 'Ric' Howard

Meanwhile, there is also a petition for Jeb Bush or an appellate court to right this terrible wrong. You can sign it here

Here's part of what the St. Petersburg times had to say:

Look up the word "travesty" in the dictionary and William Thornton IV should come to mind. The young man who had no criminal record was recently sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in a tragic traffic accident that left two people dead.

Thornton was only 17 when he tpleaded no contest to two charges of vehicular homicide arising from a Citrus County traffic accident. Two people who weren't wearing seat belts died in December after Thornton, who didn't have a driver's license, ran a stop sign while speeding. After cresting a hill, Thornton was surprised by the coming intersection and tried unsuccessfully to use the brakes and the emergency brake to stop before entering the crossroad where the crash occurred. Since the accident, a sign has been posted warning motorists of the stop sign ahead.

Thornton said he was advised by his attorney to seek the mercy of the court rather than go to trial. He expected to receive a sentence comparable to what was recommended by state corrections and juvenile justice officials - house arrest or a couple of years of juvenile detention.

But Circuit Judge Ric Howard is partial to unduly harsh sentences, particularly for juveniles. Howard sentenced Thornton to two 15-year sentences to be served consecutively, the maximum allowable under state law.

Thornton received bad advice from his public defender, who has since left public service. An open plea before a judge known for aggressive sentencing was a recipe for injustice. Now, the Office of the Public Defender for the 5th Judicial Circuit is trying to correct matters.

Thornton's new public defenders have filed an appeal before the 5th District Court of Appeal, asserting among other claims that Thornton's plea wasn't voluntary due to his youth and lack of appreciation of the potential consequences. This seems like a promising and justifiable basis for reversal. At the same time, Thornton's attorneys have asked Howard to allow Thornton to withdraw his plea, or grant a sentencing rehearing, or modify the original sentence.

Unfortunately, the State Attorney's Office is refusing to lend its support to a modification of Thornton's sentence. Do prosecutors really think justice or taxpayers are served by warehousing this young man for the next 30 years?

Yes, two people died and Thornton should face serious consequences for his actions. But the sentence meted out, while technically legal, is shockingly out of proportion to the offense. What Thornton did was unintentional. He should not be punished as if he set out to harm his victims.

Meanwhile, Howard should be removed from the case. During Thornton's sentencing, Howard disparagingly referred to the criminal record of Thornton's father, specifically pointing to the 30-year sentence that Howard himself imposed last year. This suggests that a consideration beyond Thornton's own conduct entered the sentencing determination.

If the courts don't sharply reduce Thornton's sentence to something more in accordance with the recommendations of state officials, then the governor and clemency board should step in. After two years following Thornton's conviction, the governor, with the approval of two Cabinet members, can commute Thornton's sentence to make it less severe.

Gov. Bush can look to his own family for an example of this kind of tragedy and how the legal system can deal compassionately with tragic traffic accidents. When his sister-in-law and our country's first lady was 17 years old, the then-Laura Welch ran a stop sign in Midland, Texas, striking a car and killing a young man. In that case, no charges were filed.

Thornton's life should not be ruined because he received some bad legal advice and had the misfortune to ask for mercy before a judge who has none to give.


Anonymous said...

Just found you in google when I was looking up this insane Judge. I am livid at what he has done to this kid, Thornton.

I just read about another case of a woman in Clearwater that killed a man, left the scene, and hid for days and she has a bad driving record and prior dui charges...GUESS WHAT...She GOT PROBATION!! Her name is Candice Hannon.

WTH is up with Florida State? They just let another woman go for leaving the scene of a fatal accident, her name was Porter.

You want to see something really disgusting..Check this out...( I think this Judge should be investigated!!!)

Judge turns down motion from Thornton defense team
By Times Staff Writer
Published November 17, 2005


INVERNESS - Circuit Judge Ric Howard on Tuesday denied an emergency motion that William Thornton's defense team had filed.

Thornton, 18, is serving a 30-year prison sentence for the deaths of a Citrus County couple in a December 2004 traffic collision. Thornton's public defenders had asked the judge to expand the 60-day time limit during which he could consider a motion to modify Thornton's sentence. Howard recently told the public defenders he couldn't hear any motions in the case because they already had filed an appeal. The case is outside of his jurisdiction until the 5th District Court of Appeal grants him permission to rule, he said at the previous hearing. At Tuesday's hearing, Howard denied the public defenders' motion, repeating that the case is outside his jurisdiction, at least for now

Anonymous said...

Good for Judge Howard. It is about time that individuals are held accountable for their actions. In all the posts about this "sick judge" I have heard no one express sympathy for the two innocent people that were killed by this Thornton's grossly careless behavior.

Anonymous said...

Thornton, who didn't have a driver's license

Why was he driving. He should have been charged with murder. Driving a car without a license is no differenet than shooting a gun.
Yes why no mention of the couple that got killed. This Thornton should not have been behind the wheel. The judge is right about
the first lady. She killed someone at 17 and got away wiht it. Even back then they had power. If she did some jail time maybe our countires history would have been different!

Anonymous said...

While it is sad two people died in this ACCIDENT, had the driver not been drinking - or had they been wearing seat belts - or had there been a "stop ahead" sign BEFORE the accident, instead of after....they'd probably still be alive! Sending a CHILD to prison for 30 years is insane.