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Convicted child murderer back in jail

Teen allegedly violated probation

Lionel Tate
Lionel Tate
Crime, Law and Justice

(CNN) -- Convicted child murderer Lionel Tate, 17, who got a second chance at life as a free man in January, has been arrested on a probation violation that could put him back in prison.

The Broward County, Florida, Sheriff's Office picked up Tate in his Pembroke Park neighborhood around 2:30 a.m. last Friday, allegedly carrying a folding knife with a 4-inch blade.

In January, Tate pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 1999 beating death of 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick when he was 12.

Tate was released January 26 after serving nearly three years in prison.

Under the terms of his probation set in January, Tate was to be under house arrest for one year, followed by 10 years of probation.

"It's pretty simple: When you are under house arrest, don't leave your home," said Jim Leljedal, a sheriff's office spokesman.

Leljedal said Tate was being held without bond at the Broward County Jail.

Tate is likely to face the same judge who sentenced him. That hearing will be set once a judge signs a warrant for his appearance.

Tate's former prosecutor, Ken Padowitz, said he is incensed over the incident.

"My hope was always that Lionel Tate would become a rehabilitated person and a productive member of society. If allegations are proved against him in court, that he violated his house arrest, then he should be treated as harshly as any convicted murderer who has violated conditions of his house arrest," Padowitz said.

Tried as an adult, Tate initially was convicted of first-degree murder, but an appeals court ordered a new trial. Prosecutors offered Tate the same plea agreement his mother had rejected before the first trial. This time the offer was accepted.

His case generated international media coverage and raised questions about how Florida's criminal justice system treats juveniles.

Tiffany was at Tate's house because his mother was babysitting her. Tate told police he had been imitating wrestling moves on the child. Tiffany suffered more than 30 injuries, including a fractured skull, according to a coroner's report.

On Friday, police found Tate and a friend walking in his neighborhood in Pembroke Park. According to a police report, the boys were "sweating profusely and panting as if they had just finished running," and Tate told police they "had been chasing girls." Police say they could see no girls in the area.

The report said Tate gave police a fake name, and he consented to a search that turned up a folding knife, a driver's license and a military ID.

A police spokesman said he had no details about the military ID. A spokesman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said there was nothing in state computers to disqualify Tate from having the driver's permit, which he received in April.

Authorities waited until Tuesday night before taking Tate into custody at his home. Police said they waited to notify the Probation Department.

Tate made a brief first appearance before a magistrate Wednesday.

Probation supervisors could not be reached for comment.

Cheryl Zickler, a co-counsel for Tate, declined to comment on the alleged probation violation.

The Broward County state's attorney's office also declined comment.

Leljedal, the sheriff's office spokesman, said it's unlikely Tate will face charges for carrying a concealed weapon or lying to police.

"He's in violation, and that's all the matters. We don't want to pile on," Leljedal said.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann, Susan Candiotti and Rich Phillips contributed to this report.

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