COLUMBIA — A Columbia teen who faced 12 years in prison for second-degree robbery will receive a new sentencing, Boone County Circuit Court Judge Kevin Crane ruled Friday.
Charles Williams III, 17, was found guilty by a Boone County jury in September for his part in a violent “Knock Out King” robbery in a downtown parking garage in which he, four men and two juveniles hit, kicked and robbed Columbia resident Adam Taylor, 25.
Williams’ attorney, Harry Williams — no relation — said he filed a motion for a new trial for sentencing because during closing arguments in the trial, Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks had told jurors to disregard the possibility of probation or parole when deciding their sentence.
Harry Williams had also filed a motion for a new trial on the guilty verdict, which Crane denied.
Hicks, citing in his closing statements the nature of the beating Taylor received and a juvenile record including arrests for theft and fighting, recommended 15 years for Charles Williams, the maximum penalty allowed for the crime.
Reading from a transcript of the trial, Crane said Hicks told jurors that the decision to give probation or parole to Charles Williams was “out of your hands.”
Hicks made the statement in response to one made by Harry Williams, in which he said Charles Williams — if given the maximum sentence was given — would be 32 years old when released from prison.
Crane also read aloud notes passed to the court by the jury during their deliberation in the trial. In the notes, jurors asked if the judge could alter the sentence they recommend to the court, and also asked how many years Charles Williams would have to serve before he could be eligible for parole.
Crane said the prosecution had made an error in their closing statements and that the sentence recommended by the jury, if the jury had executed it, “would not survive on appeal.”
Harry Williams said Hicks’ statements could have influenced jurors on their sentencing recommendation.
“It was already in their minds that 15 years is not 15 years,” he said. He said he also disagreed with the original sentencing recommendation, saying 12 years would “not be constructive for his client.”
Hicks argued vehemently against the motion, and denied that he tried to persuade jurors that Crane could shorten Charles Williams’ sentence.
“I said ‘Look, this is your duty, five to 15,’” Hicks said. “'The possibility of probation and parole, that’s not your concern.’”
Harry Williams said that he should have objected during the closing statements, and said the fact he didn’t was not a strategic move, but that he was being “distracted by a juror.”
“I looked at the juror, and they looked at me, and I saw such hatred,” Harry Williams said.
Harry Williams said he did not know if he would be Charles Williams’ attorney in the new sentencing. He said the decision is up to his client.
“He should feel comfortable with his representation,” Harry Williams said.
Hicks said the new sentencing would likely be scheduled for December.