Ronald Thompson

Ronald Thompson_1Ronald, a disabled veteran, was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years in prison under Florida’s 10-20-Life law after he fired warning shots to protect a friend.

Ronald Thompson is a 100% disabled veteran who spent 14 years in the Army (1966-1980). After his service, Thompson remained active in veterans’ affairs. In addition to acting as a Deputy Representative for AMVETS, Thompson accumulated 5,532 hours volunteering at the VA hospital in Lake City, Florida, primarily acting as recreational therapy coordinator at the VA’s nursing home.

Thompson was 62-years-old in September 2009 when he visited a friend of his, an elderly woman in Keystone Heights, Florida, at the woman’s daughter’s home. During his visit, his friend’s 17-year-old grandson, who had been violent toward her in the past, came by with three friends, and wanted to go into his mother’s home. Having been instructed by her daughter not to let him into the house, Thompson’s friend refused them entry. Her grandson began yelling and cursing at his grandmother. Events escalated to the point where Mr. Thompson felt his friend was in danger. He grabbed his pistol (for which he had a conceal-carry license) and fired two warning shots into the ground to scare off the 17-year-old.

Thompson was charged with four counts of aggravated assault by State Attorney Angela Corey. He turned down a three-year plea offer, believing that, due to his failing health, he would be dead in three years. Mr. Thompson has diabetes, high blood pressure, and he’d had a heart attack. He also believed that if a jury heard all the facts they’d acquit him, particularly in light of the grandson’s history of violence toward his grandmother.

Ronald Thompson

Thompson was convicted. However, the sentencing judge in his case, Judge John Skinner, refused to impose the 20-year mandatory minimum required by Florida’s 10-20-Life law, calling the sentence unconstitutional and a “crime in itself.” Judge Skinner imposed a three-year mandatory minimum instead. The prosecutor appealed the sentence and the appeals court overturned Judge Skinner’s sentence, ruling that the 20 year mandatory minimum must be imposed.

Since his incarceration, Mr. Thompson’s health has continued to deteriorate. He is apparently nearly blind, seeing only shadows. He walks with a cane and has had prostate surgery and surgery to remove two tumors from his face. He continues to struggle with diabetes and high blood pressure, neither of which is under control. For more information on Mr. Thompson’s case, please read:

UPDATE! In June 2012, Mr. Thompson’s sentencing judge granted Mr. Thompson’s motion for a new trial, and ordered Thompson released from prison pending the new trial. During his time out of prison, Mr. Thompson received treatment for various ailments at a local VA hospital, and his health improved considerably. He began building a home in Keystone Heights near his family. Before his new trial began, Mr. Thompson accepted a plea offer for five years in prison with credit for time served. He reported back to prison in November 2013, and is expected to be released in October 2015. Mr. Thompson’s case was one of several that motivated the Florida legislature to pass HB 89, the “Threatened Use of Force Act,” which is aimed at preventing the imposition of mandatory minimums in cases like Thompson’s. That bill, signed into law earlier this year by Governor Rick Scott, creates a “safety valve” and restores sentencing discretion in cases of aggravated assault with a firearm. Along with those reforms, the legislature urged people like Ron Thompson – who have been sentenced to mandatory minimum prison sentences for threatening the use of force – to apply for executive clemency. 

The Facts: Ronald Thompson

State: Florida 
Sentence: 20 years
Offense: Aggravated assault with a firearm without intent to kill (4 counts)
Priors: DUI (1988)
Year sentenced: 2010 
Age at sentencing: 63
Projected release date: 2029