Thursday, August 27, 2009

It Helps to Have Money When Killing the Homeless

Why does John Hawthorne get $25k bail and home confinement while Tyler Sturdivant sits in jail on no bond?

Both stabbed a homeless man to death.

Hawthorne is charged with 2nd degree murder in the death of Joel Boner, age 30.

Sturdivant is charged with 1st degree murder & robbery w/firearm in the death of Ora James Light, age 51.

Hawthorne has private counsel. Sturdivant has a public defender.

Hawthorne is white. Sturdivant is black.

Both victims were white.

Hawthorne (age 19) has no prior adult criminal history in Orange County.

Sturdivant (age 18) pled no contest in 2008 of possession of a firearm by a minor, possession of a firearm w/ an altered seriel number & carrying a concealed firearm. One other charge, possession of <20g cannabis, was dropped in exchange for the plea. He was sentenced to 23 days jail w/credit for 23 days time served; 2 years probation; 100 hours community service & ordered to forfeit the firearm in October 2008. I can only surmise that this was not Sturdivant's first brush with the criminal justice system because it was transferred from Juvenile to Circuit Court while he was a minor. Nevertheless, both of these young men should be held in jail pending trial. Was it money or race or prior criminal history that caused the system to let one out on bond while the other sits in jail? For more media coverage of these cases, see below.

Sentinel 7/22/09 "Teen charged in Ocoee stabbing death of homeless man"
Sentinel 8/7/09 "Judge sets bond for suspect in homeless man's death"
WFTV 8/24/09 "Stabbing suspect had friend take pics"
Sentinel 8/26/09 "Suspect in slaying of homeless man said he did not fear for his life"

Sentinel 4/17/09 "Arrest made in slaying of man found beneath I-4"
the 13th Juror Blog "I hope it's not somebody I know"

If you read the online comments posted about both cases, you'll see that both victims had families that loved them very much. Whether or not we agree with the victims' choice of a homeless lifestyle, we should all be grieved that these men were killed. And that teenagers are responsible for their deaths.

The situation diminishes our entire community.


  1. I forsee a huge traversty of justice on this POS Hawthorne case, there is no logical explanation why charges were dropped from 1st to 2nd degree and this human piece of garbage has been allowed bail. I understand Judge Adams has been taken from the case... I only hope the next judge is not so lenient.

  2. The prior history of the latter defendant, with a gun charge, and a record as a minor, obviously matters. So, as you know, do other possible factors regarding the households available to each young man. They let him go once, and he used a gun again. That's obvious.

    Of course, I think neither should be out, but we constantly see instances of black murder suspects released on bond or even personal bond, so to "suspect" race to be a factor here with no grounds is troubling. Has there been a survey of murder defendants in Orlando released on bond --by race -- but controlled for prior records and charge and home factors and income? Frankly, it diminishes community to make such an accusation against the community, one that makes Sturdivant out to be a victim instead of the offender.

    Bottom line: no matter what color he is, nobody did Sturdivant any favors by letting him go easy on a prior gun charge (and I'm sure nobody is doing Hawthorne any favors right now). Sturdivant's life is over and another life, too: both could have been saved by imposing consequences for his prior gun crime. Isn't that the real lesson people should learn?

  3. Sturdivant's prior record most certainly is the reason he's being held on no bond. My primary concern is that the Hawthorne family, because they (as reported in the Sentinel) are a family of some prominance and have the wherewithal to hire private counsel, have managed to get a bond and conditions of release that never should have been granted. It's an insult to his victim's family, to the homeless, and to those of us in the community who want to see the justice system hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes. Hawthorne took another man's life. Sitting at home (while it's cheaper for us as a community than keeping him in jail) sends the wrong message to anyone who thinks the homeless don't deserve our consideration.

    If Hawthorne was black, I would say the same thing. Whether we like to admit it or not, numerous studies of the criminal justice system have shown that blacks are generally incarcerated at higher rates than whites are - for substantially the same crimes. I only mentioned race because I was trying to highlight the similarites and differences in the two cases.

  4. See also Orlando Weekly's story on this case:

  5. I am shocked by what i have found out about the Orlando area after my nephew, Joel Boner, was killed there. It is despicable. Some of the comments made by Hawthorne supporters and townspeople make me shudder. I feel like I've stepped back in time to the days of racial discrimination at it's WORST. And obviously that is alive and well in Ocoee also. Perhaps it's the future, as homelessness is still on the rise.
    Poor Joel, he had no idea what he was getting in to. Obviously Hawthorne and probably Milner were used to hearing that homeless people are "worthless vermin and should be eradicated". That's a quote from one of the newspaper blogs. They thought Joel's life had no value. But you know, I doubt if they have ever considered the value of anything. They are ignorant.
    It's a vicious cycle of hate perpetuated by ignorance and injustice.
    Laura, can you recommend any politician or person of influence who might care enough to make sure justice is served in this murder case?
    I am writing letters daily as are both of my brothers (Joel's Dad and uncle) to try to get this dirty laundry exposed.
    When I read that Claude Hawthorne was involved i just about puked.
    I guess they own half the town. Is that why their murderer son is at home and not in jail?

  6. The Rhonda "attitude", incredible and unbelievable.

  7. about Joel Boner

  8. BOND denied for 61-year old Roger Stephens who slapped a screaming child in the face 4 times in WalMart.
    The 2-year-old victim sustained slight redness to the face, according to the report.

    JOHN HAWTHORNE a confessed murderer who stabbed an unarmed man in the back 13 times and once in the chest is home on $2,500 bond in the custody of his parents who were accomplices after the fact.
    CAMERON MILNER who watched the whole thing and assisted Hawthorne has never been charged.

    Is there a shred of hope for justice for Joel Boner?

  9. I'm not familiar with the Roger Stephens case. Is it in Orlando? Please send a link to the story. Thanks.

  10. Georgia

    John Hawthorne confessed when he was arrested and was charged with murder in the first degree.
    Florida's Court process is explained on the internet:
    Florida law gives the defendant the right to be released from jail prior to the trial. However, there is no right to pre-trial release in cases where the person is arrested for a “non-bondable” offense.
    To determine whether the defendant should be released, the judge may ask about the length of time that person has lived in the area, whether the defendant has a job, has family members living in the area, has a past criminal record or has been released on bond previously and appeared in court as required. The judge may release the defendant on his own recognizance, on monetary bond (either cash or surety bond through a bail bondsman), on monitored release (electronic monitoring device or bracelet), to the custody of a responsible member of the community or to a drug program or mental health facility.
    If a defendant is arrested for a “non-bondable” offense, such as murder, sexual battery or kidnapping, the law presumes that the defendant will remain in jail pending trial.
    A person arrested for a “non-bondable” offense has the right to ask for a special hearing often referred to as an “Arthur hearing.” The purpose of the hearing is for the judge to determine whether the person should be released pending trial.
    What could possibly be John Hawthorne's criteria for release? Could it be that the Judge John Adams was familiar with his family? John Hawthorne has a past criminal record, albeit juvenile, he is a high school dropout with a history of altercations and is unemployed. He lives at home with his parents. Yes, he has a lot of teenage friends who party with him in the woods and have a support page on Facebook. Apparently his friends appeared at the hearing while the victim's family was assured by the prosecutor's office that the hearing was inconsequential because Hawthorne would absolutely NOT BE RELEASED ON BOND.
    The fact (public record on the Orange County Clerk site) that Hawthorne's father, Milton Claude Hawthorne, had a prior arrest for possession of a controlled substance which brought a plea of no contest and a fine of $141.25 might be a strong indicator that he is not a "responsible party", and is, in fact, of the same ilk as his son.
    John Hawthorne met none of the criteria for being released on bond including the part about being released to a responsible member of the community.
    A new judge has been appointed to preside over this case after Judge John Adams was removed, probably in part because of this ridiculous decision.
    John Hawthorne's "out on bond status" needs to be re-evaluated. This criminal needs to be in jail awaiting trial for the senseless slaughter of an unarmed man he stabbed 14 times in the back.
    Instead he is allowed the freedom to be at home doing God knows what with God knows whom in his own house. Let's not forget that his parents never even called the police when John and his friend Cameron Milner came home covered in blood or noticed the bloody clothes in the washing machine or a Toshiba laptop on the bed (which happened to be inadvertently photographed by Milner when he made shots of John's blood-covered shirtless torso). The laptop has since disappeared. Just another wild party night out for the kids I guess. No big deal.
    With the body count in Orange County at 42 for the year and with homicides for 3 consecutive days around the time of Joel Boner's slaying, one might deduct that Joel Boner is just another dead body in Orange County.
    The police department and court system is literally swamped and drowning in the blood of it's homicide victims.
    What the hell kind of place is Ocoee, Florida?

  12. Welcome to the real world.
    People are selfish, vile and crude. Both men and women have become cruel sadistic bastards. Killing children, the unborn, the homeless, the elderly has become a form of entertainment.
    Personally the way I see it, if a young man or young woman murders a homeless person.
    That person is a murderous pussy.
    I have no respect for murderous pussies.
    Murderous pussies are the lowest of the lowest.
    If you stop to think about it, the homeless are people too. It's not their fault that extremely bad sh*t happen to them.
    Anyone can become homeless.

  13. I was horrified to learn of this story. I am a man from elsewhere, here alone since it's cheap. I am almost homeless - living from my car after owning a home. I am sick, broke, and without much for for resources. I am doing the cheap hotel thing, other temporary stays, and some camping. Soon, I'll find a cheap rental. I also have no helath insurance. I am a whole lot luckier than many other people - I have a credit card, car, laptop, and can get on the internet. The point is, as someone else said, this can happen to anybody. My experience has been that I am treated as a worthless bum when I look that way, despite that I am not a drunk or low-life. I can pass for a normal person some of the time. I don't want anything for free. I would like to be treated decently and to just feel safe. It seems sad that to many people, you are little more than the value of real estate, and nothing more. It's a common mantra here that if you have a good house, you're good, but if you're gay or homeless or pigmented then you're worthless scum and screw you.