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Lionel Tate Back in Jail on Holdup Charge

ED GORDON, host:

Lionel Tate is back behind bars. The 18-year-old was recently charged with the armed robbery of a pizza deliveryman. In 2001, Tate became the youngest person in US history to be given a life sentence. Tate performed what he called a wrestling move on a six-year-old playmate and friend, Tiffany Eunick, that resulted in her death. He was 12 years old at the time. Tate's conviction and sentence was overturned. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was released from prison in January 2004.

Sergeant De Lacy Davis is the executive director of Black Cops Against Police Brutality, headquartered in New Jersey. He was one of the mentors for Lionel Tate and helped design a re-entry program that was created to help him to adjust and assimilate into society. Sergeant Davis joins us via phone from Black Cops Against Police Brutality, their offices in New Jersey.

Sergeant, thanks very much for joining us. Talk to us first about Lionel's disposition and where we are right now.

Sergeant DE LACY DAVIS (Executive Director, Black Cops Against Police Brutality): Well, currently he's being held--Broward County sheriffs have custody over him. We currently are working with Jim Lewis, the attorney that initially dealt with him at 12 years of age, and we're attempting to sort this out for Lionel.

GORDON: Let me ask you--this is not the first brush with the law since Lionel Tate was released. This is actually the second. Where are we going wrong with this young man?

Sgt. DAVIS: I think the major part is the environment. There are a lot of resources that were needed for Lionel. We knew going in that we were facing overwhelming odds. We did not believe that he would fare well in the state of Florida, but as you know, I was part of a team of about 15 people and I could only give my opinion based on my experiences, but I felt that the environment was detrimental because he'd be a moving target all over the state.

GORDON: Many people, frankly, De Lacy, are going to feel duped by this young man. Does he understand that, with each one of these transgressions, he lets a lot of people down who went to bat for him?

Sgt. DAVIS: I think he understands after the bad choice has been made; certainly, as you know and can imagine, I've been very forthright with Lionel and I've expressed--after the first brush I flew down there immediately and I spent a considerable amount of time with him. But I also recognize that--you know, I have teen-age children, and they continually make mistakes through life. Unfortunately, they're not facing life each time they make one, and unfortunately for him, with these bad choices, I think it may cost his life.

GORDON: Any hope, any thought of removing him from this environment? Obviously, it depends on the disposition of the current charge, but is there any hope of moving him away from this?

Sgt. DAVIS: I think that, God willing, and then certainly if we were given another shot at this apple, I think the entire group would be amenable to shipping him here to us, which is what we felt would be a better environment to give him a new start. People, places and things needed to be changed, and consistently changed, and the plan adjusted based upon how he was faring.

GORDON: So that would be, actually, coming to New Jersey and being under the auspices, frankly, of De Lacy Davis.

Sgt. DAVIS: De Lacy Davis, Black Cops Against Police Brutality, Women In Support of The Million Man March, the Nation of Islam---there are a variety of folks who would play a role. And we've done this with other young people. We just--it was very difficult for us to do long distance, not having all of the apparatus on the ground there in Florida and having to overcome some of the obstacles there. But we know that if he's in the state of New Jersey, first of all, he's a foreigner to most people. They would not recognize him. And we'd have an opportunity to create meaningful experiences for him so that he could try to live a reasonable life and put his life back together.

GORDON: All right. De Lacy Davis, executive director of Black Cops Against Police Brutality here in New Jersey. We thank you very much for the update.

Sgt. DAVIS: Thank you for having us, Ed.

GORDON: You're listening to NEWS & NOTES from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ed Gordon
Hard hitting, intelligent, honest, and no-nonsense describe Ed Gordon's style and approach to reporting that have made the Emmy Award-winning broadcaster one of the most respected journalists in the business today. Known for his informative on-air interaction with newsmakers, from world leaders to celebrities, the name Ed Gordon has become synonymous with the "big" interview.