Published January 14, 2015
Lionel Tate (search), the teen who walked out of prison this year after his life sentence for killing a 6-year-old playmate was overturned, was arrested on charges of violating his probation after authorities said they found him out late at night with a knife in his pocket.
A judge said earlier this year that Tate could be sent back to prison if he violated probation.
Officials found Tate, 17, and a friend walking near Tate's Pembroke Park home at 2:20 a.m. Friday, sweating and panting as though they had been running, the Broward Sheriff's Office said. They attracted attention in part because most people in the area were hunkered down in anticipation of Hurricane Frances (search).
Tate, who gave a false name, and his 18-year-old friend told sheriff's officials they had been "chasing girls," though no girls were seen in the area, according to a sheriff's office report.
Tate agreed to a search, and deputies said they found a folding knife with a four-inch blade in his front pocket and identification cards with his real name.
As part of a January deal, Tate was to be under house arrest for a year and probation for 10 years.
A probation officer determined Tuesday that Tate was in violation of the terms of his probation and he was arrested at his home. He was being held without bail at the Broward County Jail (search).
Tate's appellate attorney, Richard Rosenbaum, was in court Wednesday morning and not immediately available for comment. Ron Ishoy, spokesman for prosecutors, said the state attorney's office had no comment on Tate's arrest.
Tate was 12 when he killed 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick (search) more than five years ago. He served three years of a mandatory life sentence for first-degree murder before the 4th District Court of Appeal overturned his conviction, clearing the way for a plea deal to second-degree murder. The appeals court ruled that his mental competency was not evaluated before trial.
He had been the youngest child in modern U.S. history to be sentenced to life in prison.
Tate had originally claimed he accidentally killed the girl while imitating professional wrestling moves he had seen on television. But prosecutors said the girl was brutally beaten to death. Tate's life sentence stirred national debate over Florida's treatment of juvenile criminals.
In addition to probation and house arrest, Tate was ordered to complete 1,000 hours of community service and receive regular counseling under the January agreement.
Circuit Judge Joel Lazarus said at the time that he was convinced that Tate understood that one violation of the agreement would send him back to prison.
No court date has been set on the probation violation allegations.
Before he was convicted of first-degree murder, Tate's mother had turned down a plea deal offered by prosecutors that would have brought him a three-year sentence for a guilty plea to second-degree murder.