With the Florida media, and especially TV, feasting on the story of why on-duty working cops would be at a campaign event for Gov. Rick Scott (which is barred by law), his handlers knew just what to do Friday: try to change the subject.
So Scott's campaign rolled out a statement from 23 sheriffs who accused Democrat Charlie Crist of a "reversal" on his past support for minimum mandatory prison sentences in the state's 10-20-Life law. "Charlie Crist's reversal on his support of 10-20-Life legislation and mandatory minimums threatens the incredible progress we have made over the last 15 years to make Florida safe for families and visitors," their statement said.
Crist told a statewide gathering of news editors Thursday that the Legislature should review the 10-20-Life law after hearing of a case in which a man was sentenced to 80 years in prison for firing a gun into the air.
The Associated Press quoted Crist as saying: "I'm always open-minded to looking at those kinds of things. When you're faced with new facts, I think you ought to listen."
From the AP's account: Crist responded to a question about the case of Ronald Williams, who is serving four minimum mandatory 20-year prison terms after being convicted of pointing a gun at four gay men who were whistling and ogling him from a neighbor's Riviera Beach home, then firing into the air several times. Nobody was hurt. The judge who sentenced Williams said the law gave him no leeway and that the sentences had to run consecutively -- effectively handing down a life sentence for Williams, who was 26 at the time of the crime.
Williams has appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, arguing that judges should have more discretion. "It doesn't sound fair and it doesn't sound equitable," Crist said. "I think fairness should be the standard on which we look at any statute."