Jared Cano’s life as he knows it is over.
Yesterday in Hillsborough Circuit Court Cano was sentenced to 15 years in a Florida prison for a bomb plot at Freedom High School, despite only scoring to 12 months under Florida’s sentencing guidelines.
Police learned of Cano’s plans through another Freedom High student. Upon following the student’s lead police found bomb making materials in addition to a timing device thought to be used as a detonator at Cano’s residence. Police later discovered cell phone videos depicting Cano describing his plan to attack students and faculty at his high school. Cano’s Tampa criminal attorney contested the allegations, claiming the rants were nothing more than a troubled high school student blowing fluff.
Ultimately Hillsborough Judge Kimberly Fernandez disagreed and sentenced Cano to 15 years in prison to be followed by 10 years of felony probation. Cano has 15 months of credit for time served in jail but will have to serve out 85 percent of his sentence under current Florida law.
Cano was convicted of violating Florida Statute 790.162 for threatening to discharge a destructive device and for being in violation of Florida Statute 790.161(2) for attempting to discharge a destructive device.
In order for one to be convicted of threatening to discharge a destructive device, it must be shown that the individual threatened to discharge a destructive device with an intent to inflict some type of harm upon any person or that the individual intended to damage property of someone. If convicted, as Cano was, one would be looking at a second degree felony conviction, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
For someone to be convicted of attempting to discharge a destructive device under 790.161(2) the State Attorney’s Office must prove that one willfully and unlawfully attempted to discharge a destructive device with the intent to inflict bodily harm upon someone or to inflict damage to the property of another. Like the threat of discharging a destructive device, an attempt to discharge a destructive device is a second degree felony.
Cano pled to additional drug charges which were factored into his sentence, albeit likely very minimally. All said and done, Cano could have faced 37 years in prison if his sentence would have been maxed out. Florida has in place criminal sentencing guidelines that use a mathematical formula to dictate a minimum permissible prison sentence. Under Florida’s guidelines, Cano scored but 12 months in prison.
So why 15 years rather than what was dictated in the guidelines?
A sentencing Judge in a Florida Circuit court has a very large amount of discretion in any kind of sentencing. Traditionally our appellate courts have deferred to our trial level judges as it is felt the trial level Circuit judges have a better understanding of the case and the facts within and thus are better equipped to fashion an appropriate sentence. Combine those, and trial level judges, as long as they sentence below the statutory maximum, can generally sentence in the fashion they see fit so long as it is a legal sentence. In Cano’s case it is clear that this judge felt his threats were realistic and based on that, sent a very strong message. There is no doubt in my mind that Cano’s cell phone videos aggravated the situation and whatever mitigating evidence put on at sentencing was not enough to deter the lengthy prison term.
It is often in our State and at the Federal level that justice calls for a result contrary to what an abstract sentencing guideline dictates. In most cases this happens where a sentence is imposed in excess of what is necessary to punish. In this instance, Judge Fernandez handed down a sentence that she felt provided justice to the State of Florida and those mentioned in Cano’s video. As with all cases, some will support the sentence and some will be appalled at the harshness. Each is entitled to his view as much as the next. We’ll never know if Cano would have carried out his threats. What we do know is that anyone contemplating a similar venture is now on notice that if caught they will leave town for a very, very long time.
Jason Mayberry is a Federal and State criminal lawyer with offices in Tampa and Clearwater. If you’re in need of a Tampa criminal lawyer, contact The Mayberry Law Firm today at 813-444-7435 or 727-771-3847.