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Friday, April 17, 2020

The Edward Williams Murder Case: The COVID-19 Effect

     So-called social justice advocates do not, in general, like the idea of jails and prisons. These self-righteous do-gooders do not believe non-violent criminal offenders should be put behind bars. They don't think these crimes are worthy of incarceration even though the criminal law calls for prison sentences in non-violent crimes such as theft, burglary, stalking, drug trafficking, felons in possession of guns, vandalism, pornography, perjury, forgery, arson, property hit and run, and other crimes against property, morality and public order. The vast majority of crimes committed in this country are non-violent.

     These soft-on-crime proponents have used the COVID-19 crisis to further their agenda of emptying our jails and prisons. Because the general public does not support lighter sentencing for non-violent criminals, taking advantage of the pandemic is the only way these criminal justice sob sisters can achieve their goals.

     In Los Angeles County, at any given time, the jail system holds 17,000 inmates awaiting trial. Since early April 2020, the sheriff of Los Angeles County, citing the potential spread of the coronavirus, has released 4,000 suspects of non-violent crimes.

     Aware of the reality that merely because a person who is in custody on suspicion of a relatively minor offense does not mean this person is not a major criminal, the sheriff warned citizens there would be increased crime in their communities. This meant law abiding citizens in southern California who had lost their jobs to COVID-19, were essentially imprisoned in their homes, and were prohibited from buying guns to protect themselves, had to worry about being victimized by people who should be in custody.

     On March 19, 2020 in Hillsborough County, Florida, a local judge authorized Sheriff Chad Cronister to "release any pretrial detainee [jail inmate] arrested for a municipal or county ordinance, a misdemeanor offense, a criminal traffic offense [DWI, reckless driving, property hit and run], or a third-degree felony offense." The stated justification for springing these prisoners: "To protect the inmates, deputies, and staff working within the jails."

     So, due to COVID-19, public safety was no longer a law enforcement priority. Safety was now about protecting inmates and government employees. Inmates, instead of infecting each other, had the freedom to disobey social distancing and other public health guidelines, get sick, and infect law abiding citizens. This, of course, makes sense to social justice advocates who blame society for turning people into criminals.

     One doesn't have to be clairvoyant to predict what happens when suspects awaiting trial for "non-violent" crimes are prematurely turned loose. Take the case of Edward Williams.

     On March 19, 2020, 26-year-old Edward Williams was one of 164 Hillsborough County jail inmates set free. Williams, a resident of Tampa, had been arrested on March 13, 2020 on charges of heroin possession, a third-degree felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor offense. While these are relatively minor crimes, Mr. Williams was not a minor criminal. He wasn't some businessman who got drunk and wiped out a telephone pole.

    Edward Williams had an extensive criminal history involving 35 criminal charges that included theft, burglary, drug possession, drug sales, and firearm violations. His five convictions involved felony charges reduced to misdemeanors pursuant to plea bargains. The fact he had tattooed his face suggested he wasn't preparing himself for gainful employment.

     On Saturday night, March 20, 2020, the day after Sheriff Cronister opened the jail doors, a Hillsborough County 911 dispatcher received several calls regarding shots fired in Progressive Village, a low-income housing community in suburban Tampa.

     At the crime scene, deputies found a man lying on the sidewalk who had been shot. Paramedics rushed the victim to Tampa General Hospital where, a short time later, he died.

     On Sunday, the day after the fatal shooting, Hillsborough deputies arrested Edward Williams on the charges of second-degree murder, illegal gun possession, violently resisting arrest, and possession of heroin. The charges stemmed from the murder of the unidentified victim in Progressive Village.

     Following Williams' arrest, the "non-violent" criminal was back in a Hillsborough County jail, this time under a $280,500 murder bond.

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