DADE CITY — A Dade City teen convicted in June of a 2010 murder was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Harleme Larry, 17, will spend at least the next 25 years of his life in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 25 years when he is 42.
He was found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Agustin Hernandez. The father of two was 31 when prosecutors say Larry shot him in the chest during a botched robbery in the Tommytown area of Dade City. At the time of the July 10, 2010 shooting, Larry was 14.
“It’s sad all the way around,” said Tom Hanlon, the public defender who represented Larry. “An innocent person was killed, then there’s a young man who has to spend almost his whole life in prison.
“There are no winners in this. I feel bad for the victim and I feel bad for Harleme.”
A jury of nine women and three men spent more than seven hours deliberating before returning a guilty verdict on a first degree murder charge this summer. The group also had the option to consider lesser convictions of second-degree murder, manslaughter, misdemeanor aggravated battery, assault, and justifiable use of a deadly weapon or self defense.
In a recording played for the jury during the trial, Larry told two detectives he shot and killed Hernandez. Larry said he confronted four Hispanic men in the Tommytown area of Dade City and asked for money. One of the men gave him $4.
Larry said another man swung at him with a beer bottle. He said he ducked, took a gun from his waist and pushed the man. He said his handgun accidentally fired when he pushed the man away. The man, who was later identified as Hernandez, was taken to a hospital and died.
Assistant state attorney Manny Garcia III said there was no evidence to support a lesser conviction.
The sentencing followed the 10-20-Life statute that imposes minimum sentences for crimes in which a gun is used.
Garcia said it’s time for Larry to not only serve his sentence, but to also turn his life around.
“It just depends on how motivated he is,” Garcia said. “Whether he really and truly wants to turn his life around, this is an opportunity to do so. The No. 1 thing, obviously as far as criminal cases go, is punishment as opposed to being reformed, so to speak, or rehabilitated.”
Hanlon said he didn’t have much time to say much to his client following the sentencing because Larry was quickly whisked away by bailiffs. He couldn’t judge Larry’s reaction to the sentencing. But there was one item Larry did mention – an appeal.
“We told him we will file for an appeal. We’ll do that,” Hanlon said. “That was the one thing he asked us.”
That appeal must be filed in 30 days.