OKEECHOBEE – An Okeechobee man found guilty of beating up a 16-year-old teen at a house party has been sentenced to spend the next 30 years of his life in prison.
Andrew Wheeler, 20, had been found guilty of aggravated child abuse and was sentenced Monday, Aug. 31, by Circuit Court Judge Sherwood Bauer.
Judge Bauer had two choices in the sentencing — give Wheeler 6 years in prison as a youthful offender or, after designating him as a prison releasee re-offender, a mandatory 30 years.
According to Assistant State Attorney Ashley Albright, Wheeler had been out of prison just 74 days when he committed his latest offense on Aug. 8, 2014.
At the age of 16, Wheeler was sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice as well as state prison. Records show he was in the Department of Corrections (DOC) for about 6 months in 2013. He was later sent back to prison May 1, 2014, and was then released 26 days later.
He was then arrested again in August 2014 for beating the teen.
The entire incident was videoed, and Mr. Albright played that video for the judge.
Judge Bauer looked down on the young man before him in his orange and white county jail suit and told Wheeler: “You are a criminal. I think you made a decision at 16 to do as you damn well please.
“You really don’t care,” added the judge.
Wheeler will receive credit for the 385 days he has spent in the Okeechobee County Jail.
Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News