TAMPA — After a judge refused to recuse himself from the case, Williams Thornton IV's attorney promised to go to the next level.
On Wednesday, Tampa lawyer Stephen Romine asked an appeals court to prohibit Citrus County Circuit Judge Ric Howard from participating in Thornton's case, saying that Thornton feared the judge could not be impartial.
In August 2005, Thornton pleaded no contest in a car crash that killed a young couple. Thornton, who was 17 at the time of the crash, had no plea agreement in place, and the judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison.
The sentence prompted outrage by community members, including some who raised questions about whether race played a role. Thornton is black. The two people killed were white.
Romine, who recently took Thornton's case, wrote to the 5th District Court of Appeal that the judge should be taken off the case for a variety of reasons, including inappropriate comments about Thornton's father.
The judge had previously sentenced the father to prison and brought that up when he sentenced Thornton.