A Jacksonville man is facing a 120-year sentence for firing two shots that caused no injuries, The Florida Times-Union reported on Sunday. The trial of Army Veteran Randal Ratledge, 58, is scheduled to start with jury selection on Monday. Defense attorneys have asked the judge to waive the mandatory guidelines, but court officials said Judge Jack Schemer is bound by the state law.
Ratledge, 58, was charged with six counts of aggravated assault after a 2012 incident involving his neighbors. Authorities said Rutledge fired shots in the air and screamed profanities at the six neighbors. He was charged with one count of aggravated assault on each of the neighbors. Under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, anyone convicted of a crime involving the firing of a gun gets a prison sentence of at least 20 years. Defense attorneys say Ratledge had a bad reaction to the sleep medication Ambien and didn’t know what he was doing when he threatened the neighbors.
“The problem with our system now is judges have no discretion,” defense attorney Bill Sheppard said. “Prosecutors decide the sentence, not judges.” Sheppard said Ratledge would be willing to plead guilty if prosecutors would allow the judge to impose a lesser sentence. Sheppard said the best offer Ratledge has gotten is 18 years in prison. He said that would likely amount to a life sentence for someone Ratledge’s age.
According to police reports, Ratledge was talking with friends and neighbors near his home in August 2012 when he went into the house and came back with a gun. He fired a shot in the air, then ran at the people outside screaming profanities while firing a second shot in their direction. State attorney spokeswoman Jackelyn Barnard said prosecutors have been in discussions with defense attorneys over the case.