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U.S. airman standing his ground or attempting murder in melee?

In Florida, a hotbed of controversy over Stand Your Ground laws and gun rights, the family of a former Air Force service member was hoping that attention to his case might bring an order for clemency from the Governor's Office. The ex-airman was charged with second-degree attempted murder for firing a weapon during a fracas involving fraternity members from Florida A&M University at a Tallahassee nightclub. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for what his family and others claim was self-defense.

The 26-year-old was stationed in Tampa at the time of the incident, which quickly turned from an argument to a brawl involving dozens of men outside the club. Reports say that the airman was not a part of the original fight but retrieved a legally concealed gun from his car. When he was hit and knocked to the ground, he said, he brandished the weapon and shot his attacker in the leg. Three men ended up with injuries from the bullet or bullet fragments. The airman was immediately taken into custody and charged.

The stiff charges and resultant penalty after the man's trial resulted from Florida's 10-20-Life statute, which calls for a minimum 10-year prison sentence for even showing a firearm. The firing of that weapon adds another 10 years, and the minimum sentence when a person is injured by the shooting is 25 years to life. The sentencing judge said that he thought the penalty in this case was too harsh but that he was bound to follow the law.

As in this case, the long-term consequences of a criminal charge like second-degree murder or weapons charges can be severe. Under the law, all defendants are entitled to a criminal defense attorney to represent them before the court.

Source: The Grio MSNBC, "US airman stands his ground in Florida, sentenced to 25 years", Donovan X. Ramsey, December 04, 2013

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