Erik Weyant - Florida
Sentence: 20 years
Offense: Aggravated assault with a firearm without intent to kill
Year sentenced: 2007
Age at sentencing: 23
Projected release date: April 18, 2027
Erik worked long hours renovating homes and pouring concrete. As the manager of
his own business, Erik’s work schedule kept him busy with little time for
socializing. In early 2006, Erik was introduced to Amy* through some mutual
friends. They began a budding relationship, often meeting at a local bar at the
end of the day to talk and unwind with friends. On one occasion, a man
approached the group and began to flirt with Amy. Every time Erik and Amy went
to the bar afterwards, the same man would show up to talk to her. The man made
his interest in Amy clear and grew increasingly aggressive towards Erik.
night, the man followed Amy in his car and begged her to go home with him.
Frightened, Amy repeatedly declined and quickly left to meet Erik. Several days
later on April 6, 2006, the man showed up at the bar and threatened Erik. It
was already late and Erik decided to go home to avoid any further trouble. He exited
the bar alone. Walking out to his truck in the parking lot, Erik was confronted
and threatened by the man along with a group of five others. As Erik moved to
his car, the group rushed towards him. Fearing a beating or even worse, Erik jumped
into his vehicle and scrambled to start it. He attempted to pull out of the
parking lot but the group moved in front of the vehicle to block his exit. Erik
frantically pulled his registered handgun from the console and fired shots into
the air. The men dispersed and he was able to drive away.
months later, Erik was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a firearm
without intent to kill. He went to trial to prove that he had acted purely in
self-defense. However, one of the men testified that Erik had pointed the gun
at him, instead of in the air. The entire group admitted they had been drinking
heavily all night.
no one was hurt in the incident, Erik was found guilty of aggravated assault
with a firearm without intent to kill. He was sentenced under Florida’s
notorious 10-20-life law. The law, intended to deter and punish habitual violent
criminals, automatically requires a mandatory sentence of 20 years when a
firearm is discharged during a crime. Under
this law, Erik was sentenced like a robber or a carjacker who shot at their victims. Without the 10-20-life mandatory minimum,
Erik would have faced a maximum term of five years for his actions.
Neil Roddenbery looked for a way out of the mandatory minimum in Erik’s case but
was ultimately forced to impose a 20-year term on a young man with no criminal
record. At Erik’s sentencing, he stated:
the legislature has mandated a particular sentence in this matter…the
legislature has taken away any consideration by the Trial Court of the merits
of a case…the history of a person…The only sentence I can impose in this matter
is a 20-year prison sentence. It does not matter whether I agree with that…I
don’t find that I have any room to deviate from what the legislature has said
that the sentence has to be.
has now been incarcerated for over three years. He writes, “Everything I have
worked for, all my hopes and dreams, goals and ambitions, have been destroyed.
I was a productive, 23-year-old member of society…I had no criminal record, not
even an arrest, and my firearm was registered and legal here in Florida.” Erik’s imprisonment has been especially hard
on his family who live almost seven hours away from the facility where he is
incarcerated. Erik’s dad compares his son’s incarceration to “a slow cancer”
that “eats away at you a little more each day.” Unless Florida’s 10-20-life law
is reformed, Erik Weyant will sit behind bars until he is middle-aged.