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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Jessie Thomas

Lakleand man sentenced to 25 years for sexually assaulting girl

Jessie Thomas

Jessie Thomas

A Lakeland man who sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl in 2018 was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday.

Jessie Thomas, 29, was also designated as a sexual predator.

Assistant State Attorney Randall Daugustinis prosecuted the case.

The sexual assault occurred in July 2018. Thomas was confronted about molesting the child during a recorded phone call several weeks after the victim came forward about the assault.

He admitted he touched the girl, saying it was a mistake.

“I was stupid,” Thomas said during the call. “I’m stupid, OK?”

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Daugustinis and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for investigating the case.

 

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State Attorney Brian Haas

Enrollment Opens for Second Annual SAO Citizens Academy

 

State Attorney Brian Haas

State Attorney Brian Haas

The State Attorney’s Office is accepting applications for the second annual Citizens Academy.

The eight-week program will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. each Thursday starting March 12 in the Bartow courthouse. The Academy gives residents in the 10th Circuit an opportunity to learn more about the criminal justice system. Citizens will hear from some of the top prosecutors in the circuit about how they develop cases then take them to trial. Please click on the link below to apply for the Academy. The deadline to apply is Feb. 28. Please visit www.sao10.com/about-us/citizens-academy/.

 

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