Robert Bryant Jr.

Jury deliberates 20 minutes before convicting man of sexual battery


Robert Bryant Jr.

Robert Bryant Jr.

A jury took 20 minutes Wednesday to convict a 39-year-old Lakeland man of raping a 20-year-old woman at a Lakeland home in 2016.


Robert Ray Bryant Jr., now 42, faces up to 30 years in prison following the conviction of sexual battery on a physically helpless person. Circuit Judge Michael McDaniel is scheduled to sentence Bryant on April 17.

Assistant State Attorney Josephine Colon prosecuted the case.

Bryant raped the victim while she was asleep on a couch after the victim, Bryant, and other family members returned home from a party.

Colon told jurors that the victim woke up with Bryant on top of her. The victim yelled, then rushed to a family member’s room to tell them what had occurred.

The victim’s mother drove her to the hospital where an exam was conducted. Investigators were called to the hospital, charges were filed and a warrant was issued for Bryant’s arrest.

Bryant denied the charges, claiming that the action was consensual.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Colon and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their work on the case.

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Thomas Johnson

Bartow teen receives life sentence for raping toddler

Thomas Johnson

Thomas Johnson

A circuit judge sentenced a 19-year-old Bartow man to life in prison Friday for raping a 2-year-old girl in 2018.

Thomas Johnson, who was 17 when he assaulted the girl, showed little emotion throughout the two-day sentencing hearing. In 2019, he pleaded no contest to sexual battery on child under 18 and tampering with physical evidence.

The rape of the girl, who is now 4, caused her to suffer numerous injuries and undergo multiple surgeries.

During closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Ashley McCarthy asked Judge Kevin Abdoney to sentence Johnson to life in prison.

Johnson’s lawyer asked for a lighter sentence to allow him to eventually be released and undergo therapy.

McCarthy said it was one of the most horrific cases she’s worked, describing the rape as “inherently despicable.”

Johnson showed little remorse after the rape, McCarthy said. Instead, he hid evidence and made up a story to law enforcement about a masked man who broke into the home where he babysat the girl.

Ultimately, McCarthy said, the physical and emotional effects of the rape will linger for the rest of the girl’s life.

“The effect of this crime has been devastating on this family,” McCarthy said, detailing the surgeries the girl has undergone. “It’s unbelievable how far that will reach into her life.”

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney McCarthy and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their work on the case.


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William Gilbert

Haines City man found guilty of shooting man in the stomach


William Gilbert

William Gilbert

A jury found a 55-year-old Haines City man guilty Wednesday of attempted second-degree murder for shooting a man in the stomach in 2019.

William Gilbert will be sentenced by Judge Keith Spoto on April 3 for shooting the 51 year-old victim, who had been sitting outside with friends in Haines City.

Gilbert suspected he and the victim were both seeing the same woman.  During the evening of March 13, Gilbert located the victim and attempted to start a verbal argument with him.  When the victim stood up, Gilbert shot the victim once in the stomach.

Assistant State Attorney William Beaver told the jury in closing arguments that “He (the defendant) did all the talking.”

Gilbert was later arrested after witnesses identified him as the shooter. The victim was treated at a nearby hospital.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Beaver and the Haines City Police Department for their work on the case.


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