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Gibson: LIfe Sentence

A change in state statute meant Michael Gibson had to be re-sentenced, and could have had his life sentence reduced to just 27 years. But the judge paused only a moment before sentencing him to life, again.

"Miss Witherspoon, I am truly sorry and I know I hurt you in unimaginable ways," Gibson says.

Gibson stunned his victims by facing them in court and apologizing.

"I hope that one day you can find it in your hearts to forgive me," says Gibson.

"That was kind of a shock. I want to believe that he is sincere in his apology, but honestly I don't," explains victim Ashley Witherspoon.

Witherspoon, who was raped and shot by Gibson in her apartment back in December of 1993 - testified again Tuesday - about how that December night changed her forever.

"He continued to taunt me and grind the gun into my skull," remembers Witherspoon.

Tim Taylor testified about the night Gibson raped his girlfriend right in front of his eyes. Gibson's lawyer urged the court to cut his life sentence to 40 years. Gibson's parents- former FSU football star Ernie Sims, and wife Alice asked the court for mercy.

"I truly believe he has repented of his sins," says Alice Sims.

Despite pleas from his family and Gibson himself the judge was not convinced.

"It was difficult but also very rewarding to see people involved so doggedly to make sure that justice is served in this case," Taylor says.

Fifteen people had written letters on Gibson's behalf. Among them FSU head coach Bobby Bowden.

He says he can only account for the time he knew Gibson, while recruiting him from NFC and while he was on the FSU team in 1992.

He never expressly encourages the judge to reduce Gibson's sentence, but the victim's family is outraged by the letter nonetheless.

"That he would come out against a mother of two and in favor of a criminal convicted, as it was stated in court today, a serial rapist, yeah, that hit hard," John Witherspoon says.

Gibson was a scholarship athlete at FSU in 1992, but according to school records the running back never played in a game, and dropped out after his first semester.

His younger brother, Ernie Sims, is a linebacker who plays for FSU now.


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