Tampa Bay man released from life sentence, set free pending review

Tampa Bay man released from life sentence, set free pending review
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Dan Sullivan, Tampa Bay Times
·2 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

TAMPA — Kyle Moran will not need to return to jail, at least for now.

Weeks after an appeals court decision overturned a judge’s ruling that set Moran free from a life sentence for murder, prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed that he has served enough time to qualify for a 25-year review of his sentence.

In a brief court hearing Thursday morning, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Kimberly Fernandez affirmed that Moran can remain free on probation pending that review. The next hearing in the case is set for August.

Moran, 43, spent a quarter-century in state prison for the 1994 shooting death of Manuel Huerta, a retired Tampa bus driver — a crime he committed at age 16. Originally sentenced to life in prison, he was released in 2019 due to a series of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court opinions that changed the way the criminal justice system treats juvenile defendants. The high-court rulings drew from brain science, which shows young people are less capable of appreciating the consequences of their behavior.

The victim’s son, Bob Huerta, has said he wished for Moran to remain locked up.

Moran’s release came after an emotional re-sentencing hearing in 2018, where Judge Fernandez heard details about horrific childhood abuse and the circumstances that led to Moran’s crime. Moran gave a tearful apology for what he had done.

The judge sentenced him to 24 years, time he had already served. He served one more year for a 2003 conviction for an attempted escape.

After his release, Moran built a life. He completed a transitional living program with Abe Brown Ministries and worked through classes at Ready4Work Hillsborough as he sought employment. He found a job installing fire sprinklers in new buildings and maintained steady work for more than a year. He saved money and has plans to get married.

But a state appeal in his case concluded with an order that he be given a 40-year sentence. In February, Moran was told he would need to return to prison.

Questions lingered as to whether he had served enough time to qualify for a 25-year review of his sentence. That questioned was answered Thursday.

Once the review occurs, the judge could convert the remainder of his sentence to probation.