Two people linked to the gang rape of a 13-year-old girl were sentenced Tuesday to probation instead of prison, sparking outrage from some of her relatives.
"I beg you, your honor, make them pay!" said the girl's grandfather, who urged 4th Judicial District Judge Michael McHenry to reject their plea agreements and order the defendants to trial.
But at the request of a prosecutor and the victim's mother, McHenry ultimately accepted the deals, sentencing brothers Tommy Williams, 20, and Clarence Williams, 19, to 10 years to life on sex offender intensive supervised probation.
Under terms of the agreement, both must register as sex offenders and abide by strict supervision. If they get in trouble, both would be eligible for indeterminate prison sentences, meaning they could spend up to life in prison, McHenry noted.
They were the latest of four defendants to dodge prison for their roles in the December 2016 assault, in which the girl said she was pinned to a bed and raped by six males. The two remaining defendants, Jacolby Hasan Williams, 21, and Uves Dequan Williams, 17, are awaiting trial. Both are charged with sex crimes that carry the potential of life in prison. The attack occurred after the girl met with Jacolby Williams at the Citadel Mall and ended up at his apartment, where some of the males played videogames before the girl was lured into a bedroom and assaulted in the dark, according to her account.
In asking the judge to accept the plea bargains, prosecutor Tyler Uhlenbrock alluded to evidentiary problems while tiptoeing around them. He said the District Attorney's Office had to consider the "likely outcome" at trial as well as the trauma in having the girl take the stand six times to describe her ordeal.
A series of evidentiary hearings last year highlighted factors that could have complicated the effort to obtain convictions at trial.
Defense attorneys assailed the girl's credibility, pointing to ways her story had changed over time and suggesting she had exaggerated or fabricated parts of her account to avoid getting in trouble herself. They focused on her marijuana use and past claims that she was older than her real age, sparking eruptions in court from relatives on both sides.
The four guilty pleas - together with results of a rape examination, a condom wrapper and other physical evidence gathered by police - left little doubt that a crime was committed, however. At 13, the girl couldn't grant lawful consent, but claims that she was a willing participant could have been used to attack her veracity.
The girl, a runaway at the time, has been placed in protective custody, her family members said, declining to provide details. She suffered a "mental breakdown" after learning that two more defendants were headed for probation, her mother said after the hearing.
While the mother told McHenry in court that she reluctantly supported the plea bargains, she said afterward that the defendants deserved prison.
"I'm angry. I'm appalled," she said.
The sentiment was echoed by the girl's grandparents, who said the family remains "heartbroken" after grudgingly accepted the plea deals based on warnings from the District Attorney's Office.
"We have succumbed to what they (prosecutors) said was the best outcome for her," her grandmother said. She lashed out at a court system that she said "twists the law to the advantage of the perpetrators."
Under plea bargains previously accepted in court, Tyron Uves Williams, 19, pleaded guilty last year to sexual assault on a child and was sentenced in February to 10 years to life on sex offender intensive supervised probation. James O'Neal Williams, 20, pleaded guilty in June 2017 to accessory to rape and was sentenced in August 2017 to five years on probation.
Despite sharing the same last name, the defendants aren't all related, attorneys said. Jacolby Williams, Tyron Williams and Uves Williams are brothers. Tommy Williams and Clarence Williams are brothers, and James Williams is their cousin.