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Man who pleaded guilty to setting Champs sports on fire last summer gets 5 years in prison

Champs fire
Posted at 6:29 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 18:35:23-04

TAMPA, Fla — The 21-year-old man who pleaded guilty to setting a Champs Sports on fire last summer off Fowler Avenue in Tampa was sentenced Wednesday to 5 years in prison.

It started out as a peaceful day of protesting the death of George Floyd but in the evening hours of May 30th 2020 things turned violent as people took to blocked streets and began looting several businesses.

“Unfortunately some individuals took it to a level where it got destructive,” said Howard Anderson, an Attorney for the Tampa Federal Defenders office.

The Champs Sports inside Fowler Plaza South was set on fire and the blaze took out a 3rd of the shopping center. It caused roughly 1.25 million in damage.

Nearly a year later, 21-year-old Terrance Lee Hester admitted he was the one who did it. Wednesday, Judge Thomas Barber gave him the minimum mandatory. The maximum could have been 20 years. He’s been in jail since September 2020 and will get credit for time served.

“He was completely remorseful for his actions,” said Anderson, who represented Hester. “I think he realized what he had done, the damage he caused it was like I want to try to make this right.”

Cameras aren’t allowed inside the federal courthouse but Mr. Hester spoke to the judge and told him he wasn’t thinking and that, “everybody was acting crazy and made it feel right. I know what I did is wrong, I’m very sorry. It started out as peaceful protest and it got out of hand.”

Anderson also told the judge his son, who is one month apart in age from Hester was also out there.

“I said just be mindful you’re out to civilly peacefully protest. Do not damage anything, do not hurt anybody. I think when you do that you lose purpose of the cause that you’re out there for,” he said.

Anderson doesn’t believe Hester was given that same guidance. Hester plans to work while in prison and enter programs to help better himself. Anderson said he’s expressed that’s what he wants to do “completely.”