A judge on Thursday saw a second chance in imprisoned Michael Paul Rosado and gave the convicted murderer from Homosassa an opportunity to live outside prison walls.
For roughly 18 years, since he was 17, Rosado has been serving a life sentence after a jury in October 1999 convicted him for shooting at teenagers Michael Reeves and Joshua Hopkins on Sept. 27, 1998, killing Reeves and injuring Hopkins, as part of a gang’s rite of passage.
A series of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court rulings required Circuit Judge Richard “Ric” Howard to revisit Rosado’s original punishment and consider his mental, familial and environmental background before, during and after his offense.
At an evidentiary hearing in June, Howard heard from several witnesses, who either testified toward Rosado’s desire to change or argued for his permanent imprisonment. During Rosado’s resentencing hearing Thursday morning, Howard said Rosado could rehabilitate.
“Is this person one of the extremely rare individuals of whom is irredeemably incorrigible and incapable of rehabilitation?” Howard said. “That answer is: No.”
Howard then resentenced Rosado, now 35, to a 40-year prison term, followed by two years of house arrest and three years of probation, for Rosado’s charge of first-degree murder.
Howard also resentenced Rosado to a total 32 years in prison for his charges of attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, which will run concurrent with Rosado’s 40-year sentence.
Rosado’s revised sentence could allow him to be out of prison in roughly 20 years, Rosado’s attorney Michael Ufferman said after his client’s court hearing.
“Nothing can change what he did or the damage that he caused,” Howard said. “No sentence of this court will ever absolve him. He will remain forever a convicted killer.”
Dressed in inmate garb and chained to a courtroom table, Rosado seemed stoic as Howard resentenced him. Family and friends of Rosado’s victims left Howard’s courtroom soon after Rosado’s new sentence was handed down.
Prosecutor Pete Magrino said the victims’ families were distraught but understood Howard’s ruling.
“The victim’s family obviously understands and certainly they were under the belief and hope that he’d get resentenced to life because of the loss they sustained, but they understand the court’s ruling,” Magrino said. “The court took everything into consideration that he’s required to do by law.”
Rosado’s mother, Mary, said she was happy about her son’s lessened punishment, but also passed on her prayers to Rosado’s victims and their families.
“I’m just a little overwhelmed, I don’t think it hit me yet,” she said. “He’ll never forget, Michael will carry it with him the rest of his life.”
While he was appreciative of Howard’s ruling for his client, Ufferman also offered his condolences to the Reeves and Hopkins families.
“This is a tragic case. It was horrible crime many years ago and, certainly, we can’t lose the fact that someone lost their life and someone was deeply injured and still suffering today,” he said. “And the defense team recognizes that and our first thoughts are always going to be to them.”
Citing prior testimony from June, Howard said Rosado “surrendered his criminal proclivities” while in prison and became a model inmate, attaining his GED and enrolling in masonry classes.
Mary Rosado, who said she has visited her son in prison each month, said she noticed a change of heart within her son.
“I know his head’s good and I know he wants to be a good father,” she said, referring to Rosado’s dedication to be a father for his own son, who was an infant when his father was sentenced almost two decades ago and is now poised to join the U.S. Marines.
Ufferman said he believes Rosado will make a difference when he’s free.
“He can’t bring back someone’s life, he can’t take away the injuries he caused, but I do believe he wants to spend the rest of his life showing he can be a productive member of society,” he said. “I’m confident he’s going to be successful.”