He wore a badge and served as a law enforcement officer for 20 years in South Florida.
But now Jimmy Dac Ho was wearing handcuffs and leg shackles Friday and facing Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley as a convicted murderer and kidnapper.
Ho's fate was sealed quickly and without comment from him or his attorney: Two terms of life in state prison, to be served consecutively, without the possibility of parole. He has already been in jail for just over three years.
The sentence came 15 days after a 12-member jury found Ho, 51, guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping with a firearm, in the death of Sheri Carter, 29, an aspiring law school student and escort from Boynton Beach.
Prosecutors said Ho, then a Florida Atlantic University police officer, was off duty when he entered Carter's apartment on Jan. 31, 2011 to pay for sex, but handcuffed her, shot her twice and left her for dead. Carter was taken off a ventilator and died Feb. 4, 2011.
At Ho's trial, Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey said her client's revolver accidentally fired during a struggle. She said there was no proof the shooting was premeditated.
The jury watched a video recording of Ho, just hours after the shooting, telling detectives that he acted in self-defense, after Carter raged when he changed his mind and refused to pay her $160 for sex that didn't happen.
Ho, who last year rejected a plea deal for a 30-year term, did not testify during the trial. He was advised by his attorney not to talk before his sentencing.
After the April 17 verdict, Carter's parents, Sandi Cooper and Kerry Carter, said they were thankful to receive justice for a "senseless" killing. Cooper also glared at Ho and condemned him for ending "our daughter's life by brutally torturing and murdering her."
On Friday, she did not speak before or after Kelley granted Ho his one request, for the judge to recommend Ho be placed in Martin Correctional Institution in Indiantown while he appeals his convictions.
Ho wants to go there because it is offers protective custody measures, which may be needed because the felon is a former cop, Ramsey said. The prison also has "a very strong program in religious and spiritual services," she said.
"The Department of Corrections gets to make the final call," Kelley said. Prosecutors Adrienne Ellis and Takisha Richardson said they had no objection.
Carter grew up in Boca Raton and later graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa, with a bachelor's degree in English literature, according to trial testimony.
At the time of her death, she was studying for the Law School Admission Test and meeting escort clients through an Internet ad. In exchange for sex, she requested cash payments to be used for her tuition, Ellis said.
The prosecutors said the officer got annoyed because Carter rejected him that day in her Casa Loma Boulevard apartment.
"It defies logic, reason, common sense to think this was accidental," Richardson said during her closing arguments last month. "He most certainly intended her death."
Ho later admitted tossing his gun into a canal, driving to his Boynton Beach home, and going out to dinner with his girlfriend, according to trial testimony. Investigators used phone records to quickly identify Ho as a suspect.
But Ho told Boynton Beach police detectives that he "just wanted to come out of there alive because she was going crazy" and reaching for a knife.
Before the jury, Ramsey tried to paint the victim as a "vivacious" prostitute who had plastic surgery, drove a Lexus and owned designer handbags and clothing.
Ho's career included work for Lauderhill police, and a two-year stint with Broward Sheriff's Office, which fired him in 2004 after he was charged with battery against his wife.
A day after shooting Carter, Ho quit FAU for "personal reasons," according to records.
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