Sex act sentence raises eyebrows
By CARRIE JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
INVERNESS -- A child entering first grade this year will don a high school graduation cap by the time 19-year-old Anthony Borraccini is released from prison.
Borraccini didn't kill or maim anyone. He was convicted on a charge of having sex with a 14-year-old girl. For that, Circuit Judge Ric A. Howard sentenced him to serve 12 years in prison and three years of probation.
Sex with a minor younger than 16 is a serious felony in Florida, and Borraccini has a prior conviction as a juvenile for a lewd assault on a young girl.
But even given these circumstances, Borraccini's friends and relatives called the penalty excessive, and a legal expert said it is so severe it may be overturned on appeal.
"This kid's life is basically over," said Bruce Jacob, a law professor at Stetson University. "This sentence is just unbelievable. It's way out of proportion."
Borraccini of 6766 N Charles Ter. was arrested in January 2001 on a charge of lewd and lascivious battery on a child between the ages of 12 and 16.
The girl, whose name is being withheld by the St. Petersburg Times because of the nature of the crime, told Citrus County sheriff's deputies Borraccini stopped her one day in October 2000 as she walked home from the bus stop and invited her inside his mobile home.
She dropped by his home several times over the next few weeks, and during her final visit Borraccini persuaded her to have sexual intercourse with him, according to the girl's statement.
Borraccini told law officers the girl and her friends began visiting him to bum cigarettes.
The girl said she was reluctant to have sex with Borraccini but eventually gave in.
"I just got tired of saying no," she said in a deposition. "And I just let him."
The girl's parents reported the alleged incident to the Sheriff's Office after Borraccini's live-in girlfriend, April Norman, told them their daughter had been spreading rumors about sleeping with the older man.
Norman said the girl's parents flew into a rage, and that the mother began to beat the daughter.
"I don't know if it was with a belt or what, but you could hear her all the way down the steps," Norman said in her deposition. "And then all of a sudden, the little girl says, "I did it,' or, "He did it. We slept together.' "
Norman said she was standing outside the house talking to the father while the girl was being beaten. The girl also told sheriff's deputies her mother beat her. In a deposition, the mother said she didn't remember striking her daughter but said it could have happened.
After his arrest, Borraccini gave Detective Danny Linhart a taped statement that would be played for jurors at Borraccini's March 6 trial.
In it, Borraccini said he had sex with the girl but said she was the aggressor.
"She got on top of me and started kissing me," he told Linhart.
Under Florida law, a 14-year-old is not old enough to consent to sexual intercourse.
No physical evidence was presented at trial. Jurors heard testimony from the girl, several of her friends and Borraccini, who by then said the intercourse never occurred. He said he was coerced by detectives into making his earlier statement.
After deliberating for nearly three hours, the jury found Borraccini guilty of the charge.
Before imposing the sentence April 10, Howard called Borraccini a "child molester" and predicted he would be the type of man who waits for the school bus to entice little girls into his home, according to members of Borraccini's family who attended the sentencing hearing.
For comparison, Vernon Hembree, the 23-year-old convicted of DUI manslaughter for a drunken auto wreck that killed 74-year-old Carl Weber, was also sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Borraccini has had several scrapes with the law, including convictions as a juvenile on charges of petty theft, possession of marijuana and lewd and lascivious battery, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. He is currently being held in Marion County on a charge of improperly displaying a firearm, the records showed.
Assistant State Attorney Donald McCathran said Borraccini's prior conviction for lewd assault was worrisome to prosecutors because it showed a pattern of criminal behavior with young girls.
"When the guy's only 18 and he's got a prior lewd and lascivious, that concerns us," he said.
McCathran did not seek the maximum penalty in this case, which is 15 years. But he did ask Howard to stay within Florida's sentencing guidelines.
Under those guidelines, defendants are awarded points relating to the seriousness of their crimes and their criminal history. The higher the score, the longer the minimum sentence.
On points alone, Borraccini earned a sentence of almost 8 years and 9 months in prison.
Jacob, the Stetson law professor, said the points system was flawed in this case and gave Borraccini an overly harsh sentence. Even more incredible, he said, was Howard's decision to add extra prison time beyond the 8 years and 9 months.
Jacob said Borraccini should not have been heavily penalized for a crime he committed while still a juvenile. "To let a juvenile conviction weigh that heavily is not what was intended when the juvenile justice system was established," he said.
Jacob said he believes the sentence to be so excessive, it may be struck down by the Florida Supreme Court as a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.
Howard could not be reached for comment Friday.
Assistant Public Defender David Bauer, who represented Borraccini, said he tried to persuade the judge to sentence his client as a youthful offender, an option open to defendants younger than 21.
As a youthful offender, Borraccini would face a maximum penalty of six years in prison and be sent to a special facility.
"Because of Anthony's young age, I felt it would be more appropriate to house him with other young offenders vs. hardened criminals," Bauer said.
An appeal is pending based on the judge's decision to allow Borraccini's statement to be read in court, Bauer said. He contends the statement is coerced, which McCathran disputes.
"You can hear it on the tape; there's no yelling or screaming," McCathran said. "Nobody forced him to talk."
Anna Campbell, Borraccini's mother, said her son's prior lewd and lascivious conviction stems from a 1997 dispute with his stepsister.
Campbell said she called the police after the girl told her Borraccini had been touching her inappropriately.
"I didn't know what else to do," she said. "I wasn't sure who to believe."
Borraccini served time in a juvenile facility for the crime, Campbell said.
His grandmother, Ursula Costantini, said he was a loving child, the only one of her five grandchildren to call her regularly.
She planned to write the American Civil Liberties Union to protest her grandson's sentence but admitted there's little she can do now.
"We just have to wait for the appeal, I guess," Costantini said, sighing. "The whole thing is a gross miscarriage of justice."
-- Crime reporter Carrie Johnson can be reached at 860-7309 or email@example.com.
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