Lndlord's 'Stand Your Ground' Claim Fails, Gets Life For Killing Father Of 5 Reluctant To Pay Rent; Bank About To Take Over F'closed Home, Victim Told
- With his claim of self-defense already rejected by a jury — and Florida’s Stand Your Ground law deemed irrelevant by a judge — Julian Gonzalez was well-assured of being sentenced to a lengthy jail sentence on Thursday.
- The landlord of a North Miami Beach rental home had two years earlier fatally shot a tenant in a dispute over past due rent. That action led to a second-degree murder conviction, and a minimum mandatory prison term of 25 years. The only question before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beth Bloom was whether to levy the maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Bloom ultimately decided to do exactly that — choosing a punishment that the family of Gonzalez’s victim, 25-year-old Vladimir Santos, had fervently pleaded for.
- “My one and only son,” Santos’ mother, Connie Garcia, told the judge. “He had a great personality, a great sense of humor, always had a smile on his face.”
- Florida’s highly controversial Stand Your Ground law — which is at the center of the Sanford shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin — was not applied in this case for two key reasons: Gonzalez, despite being a landlord, did not have a legal entitlement to be at his tenant’s property, and perhaps more importantly, there was no credible evidence that Gonzalez was ever in any danger.
- In addition to his grieving mother, Santos left behind a wife and four young children — three boys and one girl. Wife Maria Rivera was nine months pregnant when the shooting took place, and gave birth to their daughter eight days after Santos died.
- In front of a jury earlier this year, Gonzalez unsuccessfully tried to cast the shooting as an act of self-defense. Gonzalez had visited Santos demanding the tenant either pay rent or move out, but Santos refused to do either.
- The home was in foreclosure, prosecutors say, and Santos was reluctant to pay rent when the bank had told him it would soon be taking over the property. Gonzalez testified that he only shot because it appeared Santos was reaching for a gun. Police, however, never found a gun in the Santos home, and witnesses contradicted Gonzalez’s version of events.
For more, see NMB landlord gets life for shooting tenant in rent dispute (A landlord who fatally shot his tenant during a rent dispute claimed self-defense but his defense was rejected as he is sentenced to life in prison).