TAMPA — It was one of the most disturbing cases Circuit Judge Chet A. Tharpe had ever seen: A 13-year-old wielded a gun as others raped two Apollo Beach waitresses. Then, he took his turn. He had to be persuaded not to kill the women.
"He's going to kill. It's only a matter of time," Tharpe said in March, just before he sentenced Walle to life in prison.
"It is this court's intention," he told Walle, "that you never, ever walk the streets."
But two months later, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed such sentences "cruel and unusual." In a landmark ruling, the court declared unconstitutional any life sentence without the possibility of parole for a juvenile who did not kill.
In Florida, there is no parole (the state abolished its system in 1983). So every juvenile serving life in prison is entitled to a new sentence, including Walle.
Tharpe is expected to sentence him today for the 2008 rapes.
The defense wants a 27-year sentence to run concurrent with one imposed by a Pinellas judge for Walle's role in a rape at Table restaurant in St. Petersburg.
The prosecution wants a 75-year sentence to start after the one in Pinellas ends.
Walle will be one of the first juveniles in the nation to be resentenced under the Supreme Court ruling, which did not give much direction to judges trying to figure out a term of years to impose. High sentences could face reversal upon appeal.
Would 75 years be too much?
In a sentencing memorandum filed last week, assistant state attorney Rita Peters calculated that Walle could live well into his 70s and perhaps 80s, and that fashioning a sentence allowing him even a year of freedom before he dies would not run contrary to the spirit of the ruling. If Walle gets gain time and serves only 85 percent of his sentence, he would be released in his mid 70s.
She also notes that the ruling focuses on the sentence imposed for each specific crime. Walle pleaded guilty to 15 life felonies, including armed kidnapping and sexual battery with a deadly weapon. She says it isn't unconstitutional to give him back-to-back sentences that add up to a high number of years.
Walle's attorney says 40 years has long been the Florida alternative to life in prison and has become the maximum term adopted by other states to replace life without parole for juveniles.
She argues Walle deserves even less than that.
In her sentencing memorandum, Darlene Calzon Barror blames Walle's older co-defendent, Rigoberto Moron Martinez, for drugging Walle, literally putting a gun in his hand and forcing him to participate. Martinez, 23, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison in the Pinellas rape. He and Vicente Reyes-Carbajal, 22, are scheduled to stand trial separately next year in the Hillsborough case.
Prosecutors say that on Aug. 16, 2008, the trio attacked the two waitresses at the Docks restaurant in Apollo Beach, kidnapped them, robbed them and raped them at gunpoint during a four-hour nightmare.
It was the last in a string of rapes that summer that also took place in St. Petersburg and Gibsonton.
Walle stood out to his victims as "the mean one." Prosecutors say he laughed during an interview with the state Department of Corrections and indicated he was willing to kill anyone who messed with him.
His victims will return to court Wednesday to ask for justice.
"We have faith that the justice system will hold him accountable to the highest measure of the law given the ruling," said one victim's sister, Jacey Laundree. "This was a horrific ordeal. The acts were planned and carried out with malicious intent and without conscience.
"His sentence should reflect these facts."
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.