Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge withdraws from appeal of his tough sentence

Twice accused of bias after sentencing a teenager to 30 years in prison for a fatal car crash, Circuit Judge Ric Howard refused to remove himself from the case.

But the Citrus County judge acquiesced Friday after learning he will now be called as a defense witness as William Thornton IV seeks to get his sentence overturned.

Thornton was 17 and driving home to Sumter County in December 2004 when he skidded through a stop sign on a poorly lit road. He collided with a sport utility vehicle, killing two people.

Howard drew criticism for giving Thornton the maximum sentence. The judge was also accused of racial prejudice and making allusions to the 30-year prison term he had given Thornton's father in a theft case, allegations he denounced.

His decision to leave the younger Thornton's case will allow Howard to testify, as Thornton seeks to convince a new judge he relied on bad legal advice when he pleaded guilty to adult vehicular homicide charges.

Tampa attorney Steve Romine, who this summer took on the case, previously argued Howard could not be impartial. The judge dismissed Romine's motion, a decision upheld by an appellate court.

In another disqualification motion, Romine said Thornton's original attorney claimed he told Thornton to plead guilty in part because the judge gave him the impression he would go easy on the teen.

According to the motion, former Assistant Public Defender Eric Evilsizer said in a deposition last month that an off-the-record talk with the judge and a prosecutor led him to believe his client was likely to get probation or juvenile sanctions.

Evilsizer could not remember full details of the conversation or where it took place, the motion stated.

Romine said in the motion that Howard's testimony was needed to either confirm Evilsizer's account or to rebut it.

Howard could not be reached Friday.

Romine said the judge made the right decision.

"(Evilsizer) is now somewhat blaming the judge for his advice," Romine said. "It's only fair that the judge can respond to that."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at or (813) 226-3337.

Judge withdraws from appeal of his tough sentence 09/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 1:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lucky carrot: Alberta woman finds mother-in-law's lost ring

    Bizarre News

    CAMROSE, Alberta — A Canadian woman who lost her engagement ring 13 years ago while weeding her garden on the family farm is wearing it proudly again after her daughter-in-law pulled it from the ground on a misshapen carrot.

    In an undated photo provided by Iva Harberg, Mary Grams, 84, holds a carrot that grew through her engagement ring in Alberta, Canada. Grams, who lost her diamond ring 13 years ago while pulling weeds in her garden, is wearing it proudly again after her daughter-in-law pulled it from the ground on a misshapen carrot. Grams, 84, said she can't believe the vegetable actually grew through and around the diamond engagement ring she had given up for lost. [Iva Harberg/The Canadian Press via AP]
  2. Good luck finding solar eclipse glasses across Tampa Bay, U.S.


    Andi Figart pulled up to the New Port Richey Library on Thursday morning to an unusual sight.

    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 11: Pairs of free solar eclipse glasses sit on display at a Warby Parker store  on August 11, 2017 in New York City. To view the upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21 eye protection is essential. The designer eyeglass store expects to give out thousands of pairs of the glasses before the event.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
  3. Republicans face primary in whirlwind special election for Plant City-area House seat


    PLANT CITY — With qualifying completed this week, the field is set in a whirlwind special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City — and the race could come down to two candidates in a Republican primary, Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure.

    Yvonne Fry is one of two Republican candidates with strong Plant City ties to quality for a special election in state House District 58.
  4. Tim Tebow came into their life, and never left


    There are a lot of stories about Tim Tebow connecting with people during his life, Tebow inspiring them and Tebow being inspired.

    Boomer Hornbeck of Naples, Fla., has battled cerebral palsy and undergone surgery after surgery in the hopes of allowing him to one day walk. Inspired by Tim Tebow, and encouraged by his relationship with him, Hornbeck has become a motivational speaker.
  5. Wrestler Ric Flair in critical condition with 'multiple organ problems,' family says


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Ric Flair's fiancee shared more details of his illness in a Facebook post, and his condition is more serious than fans imagined for the hospitalized wrestling icon.

    Ric Flair photographed in 2009. [Getty]