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Victim's reticence leads to plea deal

She rejected a similar deal before the sexual battery trial started.

By JAMAL THALJI
Published June 20, 2006


Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia had just finished questioning the first potential jurors in Monday's scheduled sexual battery trial. Assistant Public Defender Bob Focht started his questions.

A bailiff walked into the courtroom and handed Garcia a note.

It was a message from the victim.

She couldn't go through with it.

In the frantic minutes that followed, victim, accused, prosecutor and defense attorney had to work out a plea agreement ending a 2-year-old criminal case with the judge waiting.

Defendant Michael David Tompkins benefited from that last-minute change of heart. Instead of facing up to 15 years in prison if convicted, he walked out of the Pasco County Courthouse with just two years' probation.

"She was sitting outside, and I guess it started weighing heavily on her about what the jury would do," Garcia said.

Under the hastily arranged plea deal, Tompkins, 25, pleaded guilty to two counts of felony battery. He was adjudicated guilty and will receive counseling.

The victim was 16 when she accused Tompkins of assault in Land O'Lakes in September 2003, authorities say. The Tampa man was arrested in April 2004, and had been out on bail since.

Now 19, the victim's identity is being withheld by the St. Petersburg Times because of the nature of the crime. She and her parents were "very satisfied," with the deal, Garcia said.

She had rejected a similar plea deal before. And she had done well in depositions with Tompkins' defense attorney, Garcia said.

But there was little physical evidence, just some grass stains on her underwear. There was no DNA. All the state had was her testimony.

"There was no way," Garcia said. "The case was her."

[Last modified June 19, 2006, 22:54:25]


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