At first, Tate told the police that he accidentally hit the girl's head on a table and that he accidentally threw her against the stairs. Then, his lawyer said the boy was mimicking television wrestling shows and that "Lionel Tate was replicating what he saw being done by Sting, Hulk Hogan, the Rock -- familiar names to professional wrestling aficionados." (This claim spawned numerous newspaper stories in the United States and abroad about the negative effects on children of televised wrestling.) In March, Tate announced that he accidentally killed the girl when he jumped on top of her as she lay at the bottom of the stairs; so much for blaming the TV wrestling.
After a jury found Tate guilty of first-degree murder, then-prosecutor Ken Padowitz explained to me that he tried Tate as an adult because the law was too soft on minors. If convicted as a child, Tate likely would have served a mere six to nine months for the brutal murder of a defenseless young girl. If anything, juvenile sentences should be toughened so that prosecutors don't feel bound to resort to the adult venue.
Now, Tate may walk free into a world that is anxious to make excuses for his brutal crime. His mother's attorney, Henry Hunter, told The Washington Post that he is negotiating to make sure the plea agreement "won't tattoo (Tate) for the rest of his life."
It's too late. Tate's actions should haunt him for the rest of his life. Prosecutors may be ready to give Tate a second chance, but they can't erase the violent deathblows he delivered to 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick.
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