Grand jury indicts Comfort

OKEECHOBEE — A Port St. Lucie man is being held without bond after an Okeechobee County grand jury returned a true bill earlier this week and indicted him for sexually molesting as many as five children.

The grand jury indicted Tommy Gene Comfort, 37, Tuesday, Nov. 10, on five counts of sexual battery on a child under 12 years of age by a COMFORT, TOMMYperpetrator under 18 years of age.

Comfort, N.W. Concord Drive, is now being held in the Okeechobee County Jail.

He was initially arrested July 21, 2014, on a warrant charging him with three counts of sexual battery. His brother, Carlton Duane Comfort Jr., 54, was arrested July 23, 2014. He is charged with five counts of capital sexual battery victim under 12 years of age by a perpetrator under 18 years of age.
Carlton, of a U.S. 441 S.E. address in Okeechobee, is also being held without bond.

Assistant state attorney Don Richardson, who is prosecuting the brothers, said the grand jury was convened to make sure that appellate issues were resolved before they became an issue.

Because the alleged molestations occurred in the 1990s when Tommy was a juvenile, “… he had a legal argument to say that because he was a juvenile when the crimes were committed, then I (he) should be sentenced as a juvenile.”

But now, because he has been indicted by the grand jury, “… the juvenile sentencing argument is off the table,” added Mr. Richardson.

Also, since the alleged crimes took place some 15 years ago, the state must use the same laws that were in use then. Said the prosecutor: “I can’t use statutes from 2014 or 2015.”

By using the grand jury, the prosecutor is “taking the safest course of action.”

Mr. Richardson also pointed out that because of the laws in the early ‘90s, if convicted Tommy cannot be given a life sentence.

“The U.S. Supreme Court said a couple of years ago that a juvenile cannot receive life. The judge can give him a heavy sentence, but the trial judge cannot give him life,” explained the prosecutor.

Instead, the judge can only sentence Tommy to a term of years — that is, 10, 20, 30 years, etc.

Of course, as far as any possible sentencing goes, what has been stated is purely speculative since Tommy has yet to stand trial.

According to Tuesday’s grand jury findings, Tommy is accused of molesting five different children.

Count one of the indictment alleges he molested a child under 12 on or about Aug. 19, 1990, through Feb. 4, 1999.

Count two alleges he molested a child under 12 on or about Aug. 19, 1990, through July 29, 1997.

In count three he is accused of molesting a child under 12 on or about Aug. 19, 1990, through May 1, 1996.

Count four of the indictment accuses him of molesting a child under 12 on or about Aug. 19, 1990, through Nov. 3, 1994.

And count five of the indictment alleges he molested a child under 12 on or about Aug. 19, 1990, through April 12, 1992.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) Deputy John Fisher worked the case and filed for the arrest warrants on the brothers. Deputy Fisher was a detective at the time.

In an earlier interview, Deputy Fisher said an alleged victim came forward and initially filed a report with OCSO Deputy William Jolly. He went on to say all of the victims were females and the youngest was 4 years old when the alleged molestation occurred.

Clerk of Court records indicate Tommy Comfort is being represented by Stuart defense attorney Jeff Gorman. Those same records show Carlton Comfort is being represented by Okeechobee defense attorney Rebecca Boldt.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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