Man sentenced 25 years in transgender hate crime case

TAMPA - Tavares Spencer, a Tampa man accused of nearly killing a transgendered woman, was sentenced on Friday to a minimum of 25 years in prison.

He was convicted on all charges, including attempted 1st-degree murder, in late October.

The trial  included the testimony of the victim, Terrence McDonald, who goes by the name Coko.

"As I was still lying on the ground, he walked around me, and he pointed the gun, and then he shot me," McDonald testified.

McDonald told jurors about the day she thought might be her last. "I lost my breath, and then something came over me, and I got up, and I started running the best I could."

McDonald said she only met then 16-year old Spencer once before, the two exchanged phone numbers, started texting, and things quickly turned flirtatious. Before it got more serious, she disclosed to him in a text that she was transgender.

According to the defense, Spencer wasn't sure Coko was serious about being transgender, texting her back about 20 minutes later. "He was planning to have sex with Coko," public defender Paul Figueroa said.

According to police, the two ended up on the side of a house on Winnie Street.

The state argued that Spencer lured Coko there, where he robbed her and shot her, but the defense claims it was Spencer who feared for his life, not Coko.

In addition to attempted murder, Spencer  was convicted of robbery with a firearm, attempted 2nd-degree murder, aggravated assault and aggravated battery.

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