Freedom denied in Citrus County clemency case
Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet, meeting as the state clemency board, voted 4-0 Wednesday not to commute the sentence of a Citrus County man serving a 30-year prison sentence for theft. As a result, Michael Thornton, 54, who has served seven years, will remain at Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell.
Thornton's sister and son both pleaded with the state officials to release Thornton on the ground that his sentence by Circuit Judge Ric Howard was unreasonably harsh. The son, William Thornton, sobbing as he stood at the lectern, said his mother died recently and he missed his father terribly.
Holding a box containing his mother's ashes, the son said: "It's hard to lose a mother, and to lose a dad too. I just want to see my dad ... at least for these final years." The son also received a 30-year sentence from Judge Howard in a vehicular homicide case, but was released after four years when his sentence was vacated.
Michael Thornton has claimed that a customer of his landscaping business, Inverness psychiatrist Parmanand Gurnani, donated the jewelry and coins that Thornton later sold to a pawn shop. But the Florida Parole Commission produced a letter from Dr. Gurnani strongly opposing Thornton being set free. "Mr. Thornton still has not taken responsibility for his actions and is not remorseful," Gurnani wrote. "Mr. Thornton said I gave him the jewelry. I would never give away family jewelry that was of sentimental value."
"Just looking at all the facts, it didn't make any sense to grant the rights," Scott said afterward. "I think it's important if I hear from the victim. It's important to me if there's anything inconsistent between what the individual says and the investigation of the Parole Commission. But it's not like it's ever one thing."