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Hillsborough judge lifts life sentence of thief whose girlfriend stood by him

John Curtis Ivey, center, smiles at his attorney Bryant Camareno, right, after being resentenced for an early release and 15 years of probation by Judge Susan Sexton in Tampa on Thursday. Ivey had been serving a life sentence in prison since 1992.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

John Curtis Ivey, center, smiles at his attorney Bryant Camareno, right, after being resentenced for an early release and 15 years of probation by Judge Susan Sexton in Tampa on Thursday. Ivey had been serving a life sentence in prison since 1992.

TAMPA — In the next couple of weeks, John Curtis Ivey will walk out of a Florida prison, leaving behind the life sentence that kept him locked up for 19 years.

Ivey, 40, was resentenced in Hillsborough court Thursday by Circuit Judge Susan Sexton to 27 years in prison. Taking into account gain time, he has already served that sentence. In addition, he will have to complete 15 years of probation.

The sentence was the result of a deal with prosecutors.

Ivey was a 20-year-old thief in February 1992, standing before another judge in three separate felony crimes committed in less than a month. He'd been caught stealing from a family friend's home, been seen with stolen tools, pistol-whipped a man.

He had 25 prior felonies and had already been to prison and back. He pleaded guilty but was surprised when a judge sentenced him to life.

He has appealed in the past and has been granted new sentencings. But he never got less than life until Thursday.

One problem with prior rulings: He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for attempted robbery with a firearm on the mistaken assumption by another judge that the crime was a first-degree felony. It isn't. And second-degree felonies carry a maximum of 15 years in prison.

In a sentencing memorandum, attorney Bryant Camareno highlighted other issues with his original sentence, including a discrepancy in some paperwork Ivey saw before he decided to plead guilty.

The attorney told the judge and prosecutor about Ivey's prison-earned bachelor's degree in theology, the son born three months after he was sentenced and the supportive fiancee who is still with him after 19 years of separation.

She waited in private for a phone call from Ivey's attorney. She didn't want the exposure of being in the courtroom and said she looks forward to being able to settle into a normal life with Ivey and their son.

She speaks with him by phone every day and visits him every weekend. She looks forward to picking him up from prison once the transfer is finalized.

As part of his plea agreement, Ivey agreed to not file any appeals. He smiled after all was finalized and shook his attorney's hand.

"I'm very hopeful that you are going to make it okay on probation," Judge Sexton told Ivey. "Because I think you have done a lot in prison, which I don't see very often.

"But if you don't make it," she told him, "and they violate you, you're going back to prison"

Ivey had something he wanted to say.

"I just want to apologize for the crimes I committed," he said.

"That's another thing I rarely hear," Sexton responded, "an apology."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Hillsborough judge lifts life sentence of thief whose girlfriend stood by him 07/28/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 28, 2011 10:49pm]
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