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Robert Williams was found guilty of engaging in organized criminal activity and was given a life imprisonment sentence with a $10,000 fine on Friday afternoon, March 30, 2012 by a seven-man, five-woman jury in the 32nd Judicial District Court.
The day began with a sole witness for the defense, a former employee of Williams named Vince Johnson. Johnson employed the defendant on a couple of local roofing projects in September 2010 as noted in found employment records. Williams was paid in cash for the projects, which was typical of day help.
When questioned by the state, Johnson said that the maximum pay of a day worker was $100 per day. For both projects with five days of work, the most Johnson could have paid him was $500.
Following Johnson's testimony, the defense then closed which led the jury to exit the courtroom. A brief hearing took place outside of the jury's presence with Williams taking the stand to discuss plea agreements that had been presented to him prior to trial.
A fifty year plea agreement had been presented by both a previous attorney and David Thedford, Williams' current attorney, in which he had refused them on both occasions.
Williams said that he understood of the possibility of a longer sentence and that the trial was the way he wanted to proceed with the case. And while there was only one witness for the defense, he also noted that he decided not to take the stand for his trial.
Closing and final arguments began shortly after 9:30 a.m., following the reading of the charge by presiding judge Glen Harrison against Williams of engaging in organized criminal activity around October 6, 2010.
District Attorney Ann Reed opened with her closing statement for the state, followed by defense attorney Thedford's closing argument.
Reed pointed out a combination of activity was fully indicated by the evidence. The three buys from law enforcement--both the video and audio footage--showed at least five people dealing and selling drugs: Cory Alldrege and Shinece Black in the first, the defendant and Jerome Williams in the second and Jerry Washington, Jr. in the third.
The first purchase noted that the informant, Marcus Caballero, said that everyone at the house had the same drugs. Williams' voice is heard in the video and did not reflect shock from the actions or an attempt to end the purchase because he was aware of the ongoings.
The overall surveillance showed 26 days of come and go traffic with numerous people with less than two minute stops which indicated drug dealing, and even showed a "drive-thru"-like atmosphere.
The defense had attempted to point out that parties or sick people were at the house, but Reed noted that the footage never showed any proof of that.
Caballero's role in the case--though he had a criminal past--was vouched for by investigator Tim Blount and Abilene Police Department office Susan Belver. Belver tried to get inside the house with Caballero but was not allowed by the residents, to which she testified was normal for that kind of activity.
The testimony from Eddie Presley, who was seen in the video summary on many times, proved that he made his purchase on October 5, 2010 from Williams and had bought from others at the house before.
Crystal Parker also testified that she and others at the house sold the drugs and that it was easy to get them into the house and make a profit. Vince Johnson's testimony of the few days Williams worked with him proved that the defendant somehow had access to more money, as around $1900 was found in his wallet.
Later, after the house was seized by local law enforcement, Jerome Williams stole around $1500 located in the house from the defendant. The photo exhibits would show the money in the wallet, as well as shoes that were gifts to Williams and a number of jewelry.
Part of the combination was also how the house bills were paid with the help of Clif Worsham. Williams, however, was the head of household and aware of the drug sales.
On October 6, 2010, Williams left with Worsham twice before the bust and drugs were found in the van they were in. Williams had an awareness of drugs being present in the vehicle and house in the "ongoing business" which took place day and night--enough evidence to find Williams guilty, the state said.
Thedford said that the breakdown of the three sales were extraneous to the original charge from October 6, 2010. Williams was not involved in the first purchase by Caballero and was not responsible for the conduct of the others depicted and shouldn't be held responsible.
His presence in the three sales did not indicate guilt or involvement, and the buys did not show Williams in control or possession, as he left the room in the second film. In the third film, Jerry Washington was the seller and Williams had nothing to do with the situation.
The reason Williams had so much money in his wallet could be reasoned by the fact that some people prefer to carry their cash; however, as the money was not traceable, there was no proof that the money in the defendant's wallet was from the controlled purchases.
The jewelry photographed was not expensive but only costume jewelry. As for the shoes, while assumed to belong to Williams, three different sizes were found.
The defense questioned Caballero's credibility, along with Parker and Presley--not only in court but outside of the court, but Thedford claimed that all three of them had deals in exchange for testimony.
In regards to October 6, 2010, the defense noted that no testimony was heard to prove that Williams had control of the cocaine which was found in the house and van. No prints, witnesses and admissions of Williams with cocaine on the date in question were available, thus proving the defendant not guilty of the offense.
Reed then gave her final argument, pointing that the combination of those living together and selling drugs was present and were aware of the activity.
Williams asked Caballero who he buying the drugs for in the footage and everyone was aware where the drugs were because they were all selling; the daily come and go traffic was proof.
From the three buys, 7.74 grams of cocaine were determined, and more drugs were found on October 6, 2010. Presley had also bought drugs from the house, and Caballero told Belver of a large chunk of drugs he saw inside. The prints, instead, were found all over the business.
Caballero had no deal with the District Attorney's office and those involved were aware of his past. However, Caballero was used by authorities as the informant because he had to be known and trusted by the dealers. Even without a deal, he still testified.
Presley only had a single conviction but "manned up" and told law enforcement and also never had a deal. He was seen on the video and also confessed to purchasing drugs from the house on several occasions.
Parker also had a criminal past and told that she sold drugs with her then-boyfriend and relative of the defendant, Mark Williams. The people of the house were careful as to who was involved with them, and the defendant was one of them.
The evidence and even complaints by neighbors point to the combination of activity which should lead to guilt.
Around 10:25 a.m., the jury then began their deliberations. At around 12:45 p.m., after almost two and a half hours, the jury came back with the guilty verdict, which led to the punishment phase of the trial.
The state gave their opening statement for the second part, acknowledging that Williams had already been to prison on three different occasions, which were added to the punishment charge. Neighbors' testimony would be heard, citing the differences before and after the house was busted by local authorities.
The defense, however, opted to give no opening statement.
The state called three neighbors of Williams to the stand--Robin Cox, Jeanette Brazie and Dennis Lamb--to tell about the area before and after October 6, 2010.
Cox had been a resident of the area for some time and also had a trailer home nearby. His son in law and daughter tried to live there, but after four days of verbal assaults and the activity, they moved.
The neighborhood was undesirable, said Cox, because of the noise heard as early as 2 a.m. and continual traffic which hindered his own grandkids from riding their bikes. Since the bust, however, a great difference has been seen as the noise and traffic greatly decreased.
Brazie, a eight-year resident of her home, said she didn't know the residents but said that the summer and fall of 2010 were "terrifying" due to the activity and cars pulling in and out continuously.
She was fearful of the fact that drugs were in the next house but since the arrests, she now feels safer and the area has improved.
Lamb has lived in his house since 1985 and knew about quite a few of the people in the house on 1110 Runnels. During the summer and fall of 2010, he noted many people outside with drug dealing occurring and cars coming at all hours of the night. Now, he said, the area is better and quieter.
Sweetwater Police Department (SPD) Detective Ray Cornutt also testified for the state as an expert witness in fingerprint identification, comparing three previous prints from Williams' time in prison to a recent set of prints. All three sets were confirmed as a match to Williams.
The state then rested their case, as well as the defense, who called up no witnesses.
Shortly around 2:20 p.m., Judge Harrison read the charge to the court. As Williams had multiple past offenses, the punishment charge was enhanced to include and consider a conviction of forgery from 1985 and a 1991 conviction of aggravated assault. The defendant said both were not true.
If both enhancements were found as true--along with the guilty charge of engaging in organized criminal activity, the defendant could be sentenced anywhere from 25 years to life in prison with a fine not to exceed $10,000. If only one offense was true, a sentence of 15 years to life in prison could be given with the maximum $10,000.
However, if both convictions were considered as not true, the jury could give a sentence of 5 years to life in prison with the maximum $10,000 fine.
Thereafter, the closing arguments were given by Reed and Thedford, respectively.
Reed noted that Williams, a 44 year old man, had already been to prison three times in his life, which was pertinent. The evidence from the first part of the trial should be additionally considered, along with the neighbors' testimony and enhancements.
She asked for the jury to use the first verdict form--which noted both enhancements as true-- and to send Williams and other drug dealers in town a message through giving the life sentence and maximum fine.
Thedford pointed out that Williams' problems and going back to prison would be a sad story, regardless of how much time was given to him. Five years, fifteen years and twenty-five years all include abundant changes in the person's life and those closest to him.
Asking for a low-range sentence, he told the jury that their job was to be fair and practical instead of trying to send a message.
Reed then gave her final statement, stating that the only sad stories in this case were the neighbors who had to deal with the activity, and especially the small children who were seen and heard in the three purchase videos who had been raised in a drug dealing home.
Williams' choices in life led him to prison, and the enhancements added were proof that he had not learned his lesson yet. A long sentence would help him learn and show drug dealers in the area that they would be unable to sell drugs, in order to keep the children of Sweetwater safe.
At 2:45 p.m. the jury went back to deliberate on the punishment, which only took around 45 minutes. The jury also found both enhancements to be true in their punishment verdict.