Tipler sentenced to 30 years

Published 10:47 pm Monday, June 3, 2013

Disbarred attorney James Harvey Tipler was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday morning for his efforts to have Florida Assistant State Attorney Russ Edgar killed, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.

Later in the day, the 62-year-old Tipler agreed to plead no contest to one count of racketeering and one count of practicing law without a license.

He received an 80- month prison sentence followed by eight years of probation on those charges, which will be served concurrently with the 30-year sentence.

The plea deal brings to a close a criminal prosecution that had dragged on for four years.

Tipler was arrested for the first time on racketeering (maintaining a criminal enterprise) charges in 2009 when state attorney’s office investigators, led by Edgar, busted the then-suspended attorney’s immigration business.

Two years and two arrests on the same charges later, Tipler was ordered to await trial at the Okaloosa County Jail.

It was from there that he hatched his plan to have Edgar killed.

At a trial that ended May 7 with a verdict of guilty on two of three counts, prosecutor Bobby Elmore showed how Tipler had solicited three fellow inmates — Dion Lowe, Wallace Morris and fellow disgraced attorney R. Scott Whitehead — to help him plan Edgar’s demise.

During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Elmore summoned the ghosts of prosecuting attorneys throughout American history who had been killed in their line of duty.

“James Harvey Tipler did everything he could to put Russ Edgar on that list,” Elmore argued, and therefore deserved a state maximum 60-year prison term.

“The ghosts of 13 murdered attorneys, and their families and friends, demand such a sentence. Nothing else would be justice,” Elmore told the court.

Okaloosa County Judge T. Patterson Maney gave Elmore half of what he wanted. Elmore said after the hearing he could live with the judge’s decision.

“It’s a de facto life sentence,” Elmore said afterward. “I was serious in every word I said about the maximum sentence being appropriate, but when you get down to the practical effect, 30 years was a life sentence.”

Tipler’s attorney, Clyde Taylor, had argued since the beginning of the solicitation for murder trial that the First Judicial Circuit state attorney’s office should not be trying the case, as it involved one of its own.

Eddins said the 80-month sentence on the racketeering and unlicensed practice of law charges, which cannot under terms of the negotiated deal be appealed, will ensure that Tipler serves prison time even in the event the solicitation for murder charges are overturned on appeal.

Taylor notified the court Monday he does intend to appeal the May 7 conviction.