A Life Wasted for Lionel Tate

The last time you probably heard about Lionel Tate, the sad pre-teenager was getting from the criminal justice system a second chance at living a productive, happy life. Convicted at the age of 12 of murdering a 6-year-old girl with a wrestling move he had seen on television, Tate won his appeal by convincing his judges that he had not understood the charges against him. He then cut a deal with prosecutors, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, and was freed from prison and put on probation.

At this point, you would think, the young man would have had the fear of God instilled in him to put to right the mistakes he had made. But it was not to be for Tate. Two years ago, a judge gave Tate yet another chance after he was found with a knife. Five more years were added to his probation but Tate never had to serve any time.

And last year, the teenager-- now huge and hulking-- was charged with having a gun and robbing a pizza delivery man. Those are crimes themselves, of course, and they also represented a violation of Tate's probation. So, today, a Florida judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison. "In plain English, you've run out of chances," Broward County Circuit Judge Joel T. Lazarus told Tate. "You do not get any more."

The sentence means that Tate is likely to spend the bulk of his adult life in prison. In addition to the probation violation, Tate still has to face the music on the robbery charge and a conviction in that case would only add to his sentence. And it's clear from the media reports today that there is still great discord in the Tate camp; discord that emerged many years ago during his first and most famous runaround with the law. His lawyer told the Associated Press outside court that Tate should not have withdrawn his guilty plea. "He continues to get bad advice from meddling third parties," the lawyer said.

The story of Tate's life, then, is one of wasted opportunity. Opportunity to develop as an intellectually and emotionally stable child. Opportunity to rectify or at least recompensate for a horrible deed done young. Opportunity to help other young people avoid the problems he endured but could not overcome. Opportunity to do something useful and profound, or even just plain and average, with a young mind and healthy body. People have said before that the system let Tate down-- the educational system, the legal system, this system and that system. But in the end Lionel Tate and his family have no one to blame but themselves and now a lifetime to think of what might have been.

By  |  May 18, 2006; 2:00 PM ET
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Isn't it time to stop the old -- and now refuted -- rumor about a wrestling move in the first trial? Examine the lawsuit that World Wrestling Entertainment made against the Parents Television Council. The PTC, in 2003, in its deal that ended the case, wrote this:


Media Research Center (MRC), Parents Television Council (PTC), Dr. Delores Tucker, Mark Honig and I have in the past made statements regarding so-called wrestling deaths----children killed by other children alleged to be mimicking ""professional wrestling"" moves they saw on television. We made such statements to members of MRC and PTC, the media, advertisers on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Smackdown! program, retailers that sell WWE-related toys and merchandise, public officials and the public. MRC and PTC also produced a videotape as part of a fundraising campaign in connection with its ""National Campaign to Clean Up TV Now!"", which advanced the notion that the murder of Tiffany Eunick was caused by the influence of professional wrestling on Lionel Tate. The videotape included interviews with Lionel Tate''s lawyer advancing the notion that the murder of Tiffany Eunick, the victim, was directly caused by the impact that professional wrestling had on Lionel Tate.

We based our statements on media reports and source information. We now believe, based on extensive investigation and facts which have come to light since making those statements, that it was wrong for MRC, PTC, their spokespersons and myself to have said anything that could be construed as blaming WWE or any of its programs for the deaths of the children. Simply put, it was premature to reach that conclusion when we did, and there is now ample evidence to show that conclusion was incorrect. I now believe that professional wrestling played no role in the murder of Tiffany Eunick, which was a part of our ""Clean Up TV Now!"" campaign, and am equally convinced that it was incorrect and wrong to have blamed WWE or any of its programs for the deaths of the other children.

Because of our statements, PTC, MRC and the WWE have been in litigation since November 2000. WWE vigorously advanced its position that neither it, nor ""professional wrestling"" lead to these deaths. WWE also contended that MRC, PTC, their spokespersons and I had misrepresented the number of advertisers who withdrew support from WWE''s Smackdown! television program after receiving communications from the PTC, some of which regrettably connected the WWE and Smackdown! to the deaths of children. As such, WWE exercised its right to initiate this litigation, during which facts came to light that prompted me to make this statement.

By this retraction, I want to be clear that WWE was correct in pointing out that various statements made by MRC, PTC and me were inaccurate concerning the identity and number of WWE Smackdown! advertisers who withdrew support from the program. Many of the companies we stated had ""withdrawn"" or pulled their support had never, in fact, advertised on Smackdown! nor had any plan to advertise on Smackdown! Again, we regret this error and retract any such misleading statements.

Finally, concerning the statements about child wrestling deaths, it was wrong to have stated or implied that WWE or any of its programs caused these tragic deaths. Specifically concerning the Lionel Tate case, recent developments lead us to believe that others and we were given, and relied upon, false information provided by parties close to the case. The information that we were given and relied upon may have been designed to make a national example of the Florida murder trial, pinning the blame on WWE. For example, we were told by a source that Lionel Tate was watching a WWE program when he assaulted Tiffany Eunick. In fact, Lionel Tate was watching the ""Flintstones"" and a cartoon entitled ""Cow and Chicken."" We were also told, by a source, that Lionel Tate killed Tiffany Eunick while executing a wrestling move unique to a WWE character called the ""Stone Cold Stunner."" We have since learned that this was not true, nor was there any evidence that it was true.

It is now well documented that after the Tate trial concluded, the presiding Judge said that it was ""inconceivable"" that Tiffany Eunick''s injuries were caused by Lionel Tate mimicking wrestling moves. Indeed, since the trial ended, Lionel Tate''s new lawyers have filed court papers in which they admit that the ""wrestling defense"" was, in their words, ""bogus."" Given these facts, WWE was within its rights to be angry at the MRC, PTC, their spokespersons and I for contacting WWE''s advertisers to go beyond complaining about WWE content but passing along accusations which we now know were false. Because I feel a simple retraction is not sufficient, I have personally extended my apology to Vince McMahon and the WWE on behalf of MRC, PTC, Dr. Tucker, Mr. Honig and me. Through this letter, I now make this apology public and specifically directed to the advertising community that has in the past, is currently or may in the future consider advertising or sponsoring WWE programming.

The PTC can have its concern with the content of WWE''s television programming -- though these concerns have been reduced significantly over the past years as a reflection of WWE''s changed standards. But nowhere in that debate, including in the correspondence and statements to the advertising community, should there have been any discussion of ""wrestling"" deaths. I regret this happening, it wasn''t fair to WWE. And I say this emphatically: Please disregard what others and we have said in the past about the Florida ""wrestling"" death. Neither ""wrestling"" in general, nor WWE specifically, had anything to do with it. Of that I am certain.


L. Brent Bozell, III

cc: Vince and Linda McMahon

Posted by: Stop spreading rumors! | May 21, 2006 07:03 AM

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