A Florida Army veteran faces 120 years in jail for firing two shots that caused no injuries while allegedly under the influence of medical prescription.
In 2012, police charged Randal Ratledge, 58, with six counts of aggravated assault against his neighbors, the Florida Union-Times reports. His trial is now set to begin, and jury selection started on Jan. 4.
In August 2012, Ratledge allegedly screamed at his neighbors and threatened them by shooting two gunshots, one into the air and the other in their direction. Defense attorneys said he was under the influence of Ambien, a behavior-altering drug designed to induce sleep.
Despite the fact that nobody was harmed in the incident, Florida’s 10-20 Life law mandates that anybody firing off a gun receives a minimum prison sentence of 20 years. Ratledge was charged with one count per neighbor involved, hence the possible 120-year sentence.
Defense attorneys asked the judge to make an exception in this case.
"While we cannot get into specifics pretrial, the state has considered all options, which include waiving the 20-year minimum mandatory," state attorney spokeswoman Jackelyn Barnard told the Union-Times.
Still, according to defense attorney Bill Sheppard, the best offer proposed to Ratledge by prosecutors so far is 18 years in prison.
Given the veteran’s age, this would mean Ratledge would likely spend the rest of his life in jail.
"The problem with our system now is judges have no discretion," Sheppard said. "Prosecutors decide the sentence, not judges."
Ratledge’s defense team reportedly plans to argue during the trial he was “involuntarily intoxicated" and thus is not responsible for his behavior.
“He remembers taking the Ambien, and then he remembers being in shackles,” Bryan DeMaggio, the veteran’s second defense attorney, said.
At the moment, Ratledge is at home out on bail but is court-mandated to stay at home for the majority of the time. He is doing well, according to Sheppard.
“He’s a soldier trained by the U.S. Army,” he explained. “He was trained to deal with it.”