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Man gets 6 months for sex assault

The man pleaded no contest to a charge of having sex with a 14-year-old girl. The sentence is lighter than guidelines call for.

By JIM ROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 17, 2001


INVERNESS -- A man accused of having sex with a 14-year-old girl will serve six months in jail and three years on probation -- a sentence far more lenient than what state guidelines call for.

The sentence might face a challenge from the State Attorney's Office. "We are contemplating an appeal," prosecutor Lisa Herndon said.

Kenneth Ray Toomey was 19 when, according to authorities, he had sex with the underage girl. The relationship was reportedly consensual, but that is irrelevant under state law.

Last month, shortly before his trial was scheduled to start, Toomey pleaded no contest to a felony charge of lewd or lascivious battery on a child younger than 16.

"No contest" means he did not admit or deny guilt.

There was no plea bargain between the defense and the prosecution. As a result, the sentencing of Toomey, who now is 20, was left completely to Circuit Judge Barbara Gurrola.

The judge convened a sentencing hearing Friday and listened to defense witnesses vouch for Toomey's character and describe the episode as a misunderstanding.

In response, the state showed the judge a transcript of the interview Toomey granted Citrus County sheriff's deputies before his arrest. During that interview, Toomey said he had engaged in sexual activity with this victim and other girls who might have been younger than 16, prosecutors said.

Florida's sentencing guidelines call for people convicted of this offense to serve at least 2 years and 10.5 months in prison, prosecutors said. The maximum sentence is 15 years behind bars.

Judges are allowed to make a "downward departure" from the guidelines if they find just cause. That's what Gurrola did.

Toomey must serve six months in jail and then serve three years on a special form of probation for sex offenders. The state wanted a "guideline" sentence -- in other words, prison for at least 2 years and 10.5 months.

Toomey also must pay a $500 fine, court costs and have no unsupervised contact with anyone age 18 or younger without permission from a judge or his probation officer.

Gurrola withheld a formal finding of guilt, meaning Toomey will avoid having a felony on his record.

Meanwhile, Toomey's mother remains in trouble with the law.

Authorities have accused Amanda Toomey Levesque of trying to convince her son's accuser to change her story.

Law officers also say Mrs. Levesque offered to pay for the victim to leave the state.

Prosecutors have charged the woman with witness tampering, a felony.

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