Florida Judge Orders Release of Elderly Man Serving 20 Years for Firing Two Warning Shots

A Florida judge has ordered a new trial for Ronald Thompson, the 65-year-old disabled veteran who was sentenced to 20 years in prison under Florida's mandatory minimum law after firing two warning shots to scare off a gang of teenagers. In the meantime, the judge wants Thompson, who has already served three years of his 20 year sentence, released from prison. 

Thompson's story exemplifies just how awful mandatory minimum laws can be. In 2009, he was visiting an elderly friend at her daughter's home when the woman's 17-year-old grandson arrived. The boy's mother instructed her mother (Thompson's friend) not to let the teenager, who had a history of violence, into the house. Along with three other friends, the boy tried to force his way past his grandmother into the home. Thompson, fearing for his friend's safety, fired two warning shots into the ground. 

State Attorney Angela Corey charged Thompson with four counts of aggravated assault. What happened next was a nightmare for the disabled veteran: 

He turned down a three-year plea offer, believing that, due to his failing health, he would be dead in three years. Mr. Thompson has diabetes, high blood pressure, and he'd had a heart attack. He also believed that if a jury heard all the facts they'd acquit him, particularly in light of the grandson’s history of violence toward his grandmother.

Thompson was convicted. However, the sentencing judge in his case, Judge John Skinner, refused to impose the 20-year mandatory minimum required by Florida’s 10-20-Life law, calling the sentence unconstitutional and a "crime in itself." Judge Skinner imposed a three-year mandatory minimum instead. The prosecutor appealed the sentence and the appeals court overturned Judge Skinner's sentence, ruling that the 20-year mandatory minimum must be imposed.

Since his incarceration, Mr. Thompson’s health has continued to deteriorate. He is apparently nearly blind, seeing only shadows. He walks with a cane and has had prostate surgery and surgery to remove two tumors from his face. He continues to struggle with diabetes and high blood pressure, neither of which is under control. Mr. Thompson’s sister has seen the current state of his health and doesn’t expect him to live longer than six months if he remains in prison.

In her monthly letter to supporters, Families Against Mandatory Minimums founder Julie Stewart reports that a judge threw out Thompson's sentence on June 26. "This is an incredible case that highlights everything that is wrong with mandatory minimum sentences in general," she writes, "and Florida's mandatory 10-20-life sentences for gun violations, in particular."   

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  • Caleb Turberville||

  • Spartacus||

    State Attorney Angela Corey charged Thompson with four counts of aggravated assault.

    Isn't she the one doing the Trayvon Martin case?

  • tarran||

    Yep....

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Sorry, but that bitch needs a bullet to the forehead. Jesus fucking antichrist.

  • Killazontherun||

    You're too merciful. Cancer in the gut.

  • sarcasmic||

    No way. She needs to be locked up in general population and raped until she gives birth to the next Freddy Krueger.

  • Spartacus||

    It is! And she has a long history of this kind of stuff.

    She will probably be our next governor.

  • sarcasmic||

    Bitch certainly can't be accused of being "soft on crime".

  • BakedPenguin||

    No, she's too ugly even for that. She's going to wind up with fellow scumbags Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell on HLN, talking about how we need more of our population in prison.

  • wareagle||

    She will probably be our next governor.

    not if Pam Bondi out-panders her. For those believing that just because FL has no state income tax it's okay, think again.

  • ||

    I haven't read anything about this case before, so help me with a few details. Were the teenage brats charged with anything? Like trespassing or assault on the old lady? If not, why not? And I don't see how these kids trying to force their way into a home doesn't justify resisting with deadly force. Was the old guy's mistake that he fired into the floor instead of into the thug's chest?

  • fresno dan||

    good questions.
    "State Attorney Angela Corey charged Thompson with four counts of aggravated assault"
    The real question though, why this woman isn't charged with being "too stupid to live." I guess she is just part of that "ole gubermint club" that acts like everybody in government is smart, honorable, and well intentioned.
    Every republican and democrat in Florida should be asked if they believe this prosecutor is "law and order" and why she couldn't figure out that the invaders were the problem and not the old man.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I gotta say, PA for all of its faults doesn't see much bullshit like this. Our gun and stand your ground laws are pretty liberal(in the good way).

  • Killazontherun||

    She seems to be a one woman bullshit generator from everything I've seen associated with her. We of the other 49 lucked up not to have this monster associated with us.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Florida takes one for the team?

  • Tulpa the White||

    So are Florida's; doesn't stop a prosecutor with an agenda where a conscience should be.

  • General Butt Naked||

    The more of these cases that I see the more I am convinced that if you are scared for your life you are better off killing the attacker.

    This is the same thing that happened to that black lady whose ex-husband was in her home trying to kill her. She fired a warning shot and got twenty fucking years for it. In her own damn home. She should of killed the bastard and been done with it.

    And how the fuck is a warning shot "aggravated assault"? What the fuck Florida?

  • sarcasmic||

    This is the same thing that happened to that black lady whose ex-husband was in her home trying to kill her.

    Same prosecutor. Same plea bargain.

    She's going to get a conviction, no matter what. Gotta keep the statistics up for when she runs for governor.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I thought it was the same prosecutor but wasn't sure. Jesus, can we get the NRA* or somebody down there to lead up a campaign to have her axed. She's a fucking menace to law abiding citizens.

    *if I were still a member I would try to contact somebody in the org about this, any one wanna try? If any members wanna put together a letter or petition to send to NRA HQ I might be tempted to buy a year membership to sign on. This fucking demon has to go.

  • tarran||

    In both that case and this case, the person left the scene and came back with a gun:

    1) The woman returned to the house because she forgot her car keys and couldn't drive away.

    2) This fellow went ot his car and came back with the gun.

    I think this prosecutor has a hard-on for people whom she thinks could have left the scene and thus ended the altercation and chose to continue it.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I think in the first one the garage was attached to the house and she didn't leave because her kids were still in the house with the maniac. Secondly, there is no duty to retreat in FL, as far as I know. Like I said, this prosecutor is a fucking menace with no regard for justice, or even the law.

    Seems to me it's better to kill your attacker than to have competing stories. You kill them it's your story.

  • ||

    The basic assumption is that if you had time to fire warning shots, your life was not in immediate danger, therefore the stand your ground law does not apply.

    If the man had killed the boyfriend (or the woman, her ex) the self-defense law would have kicked in and no charges would have been filed.

    The prosecution treated both cases as unjustified use of force, because if lives are on the line, you don't fire warning shots.

  • wareagle||

    and if the old guy had left and the kid had done something to grandma, what would you say the odds are this prosecutor would still have found some reason to charge the old guy?

    For all the bellyaching about defense and corporate lawyers, prosecutors belong in the same ring of hell sometimes.

  • tarran||

    Oh, believe me, I don't agree with her one bit!

    I'm just giving my take on how she views these cases.

  • KevinP||

    Details, including original sources are here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.....mpson_case

  • Whiterun Guard||

    What mechanism allowed a judge to throw out the case and order a new trial? Was it an appeal or can they just randomly do that?

  • ||

    The Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishments. Executing a guy (which is what subjecting a guy with diabetes to a prison diet amounts to) for having sufficient self-restraint to not kill an attacker if he didn't have to is both cruel and unusual.

  • T||

    We were told in my CHL class that warning shots, legally speaking, are extremely dubious. You are better off (in TX, anyway) shooting someone than firing warning shots. I guess this proves that rule.

  • BakedPenguin||

    You know, that is fucked up at a fundamental level.

  • T||

    I can go you one better. If a 16 year old is vandalizing my car at night, I'm better off shooting him dead than beating his ass and telling him not to come back. The first way is a good shot, I get nol prossed and immunity from civil suit. The second way, he's still alive to claim WTfever and I can get reported to CPS in addition to teh other legal troubles.

  • ||

    This is because many self-defense laws only kick in when lives or great bodily harm are threatened.

    If you have the time to fire a warning shot, or enough leeway to use less than deadly force, you obviously were not greatly endangered. Therefore the self-defense law doesn't apply.

    It's BS, but that's how the prosecutors see it. And the courts mostly seem to as well.

  • gnewburn||

    That's how they see it when a citizen fires a warning shot. When one of their own does it, they give him an award and a promotion. (See Miami-Dade Chief Assistant State Attorney Don Horn.)

  • ||

    My first reaction, as it always is in cases like this, is disgust that a jury actually voted to convict this guy. All I know is, if I'm ever on the jury for a case that Angela Corey is prosecuting, I'm going to nullify out of general principle.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I think the same thing, but we don't know what evidence was allowed in the trial. Not to mention, that the prosecutor probably coached the teen to play the innocent baby that just wanted to see his grandmother... AN HONOR STUDENT HE IS! But he was stopped by this gun toting maniac that shoots first and asks questions later. The teen thanks his lord and savior Jesus Christ every night that this elderly assassin didn't snuff out his promising young life, the life of an HONOR STUDENT!

  • ||

    And having said that on the internet, you won't ever serve on a jury.

  • gnewburn||

    That's a good point, Gind. I guarantee Angela Corey will be on the lookout for "Karl Hungus" in the jury pool.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Mr. Thompson's main crime was wielding a gun in the state of Florida without a badge, a crime that requires serious punishment.

  • Paul.||

    So much for 'stand your ground'. Fuck you, New York Times.

  • ||

    The theory goes that anyone who has the time to fire warning shots is not in immediate peril of life and limb.

    So, since he wasn't in immediate danger, it wasn't a justified use of force, since self-defense must be proportionate to the threat. Using a deadly weapon against someone who is not threatening deadly force is not proportionate.

    So that led the guy to being charged with aggravated assault with a firearm.

  • Tulpa the White||

    This guy got railroaded of course, but firing warning shots is seriously stupid. If showing the gun isn't enough to scare off the threat, your bullets need to go somewhere besides the ground.

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