August 30, 2012

By JEFF LATZKE

Associated Press

 

Supporters of an Oklahoma State basketball player convicted of sexually assaulting two women at a party say he’s a victim of misidentification in a case with no physical evidence.

One of the women says she’s infuriated by the people who are “blindly” supporting Darrell Williams “without knowing the facts of what happened that night.”

Now a judge is considering whether to give him a new trial. Judge Phillip Corley delayed Williams’ sentencing on Friday August 24 so he can consider a defense motion claiming that new evidence had been found. The defense motion says the new evidence could have impeached a witness and changed the outcome of the trial.

A jury found Williams guilty last month of sexual battery and two counts of rape by instrumentation, all felonies, and recommended one-year prison sentences for each of the rape counts. Williams was also acquitted of two additional counts of rape by instrumentation.

The judge’s decision last Friday was a glimmer of hope celebrated by his family and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who came to Stillwater to speak on Williams’ behalf and draw attention to a case he believes to be flawed.

“If there is another trial, it will be more transparent — more people watching it in the courtroom and from around the nation,” Jackson said outside the courthouse.

Williams’ attorneys have cast doubt on the case from the outset, arguing that there was no physical evidence, such as a rape kit or DNA, and neither of the accusers suffered any injuries or had their clothes damaged.

It’s not clear what new evidence defense attorneys have. Williams’ attorneys, Cheryl Ramsey and Willie Baker, declined comment, and Jackson said the judge was keeping it under seal. Prosecutor Jill Tontz and Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford have both said they will not comment until after the sentencing.

Corley set a Sept. 14 hearing on the defense motion. In the meantime, Williams will remain in the Payne County Jail.

Williams enrolled at Oklahoma State in Stillwater — a town tucked away on the high prairie — after his brother was shot to death on Chicago’s South Side in 2009. His family hoped the move would keep him out of danger. Armed with big dreams and a knack for the game, Williams made the most of his time at OSU, leading the team in rebounding and averaging more than 7 points a game in 2010.

That all changed at an off-campus party after a home game in December 2010.

As Williams has been in jail awaiting sentencing, several websites and Facebook pages have popped up in support of him, along with an online petition urging the judge to suspend his sentence.

One of Williams’ accusers blasted some of his supporters who believe race played a role in his conviction or that she and the other victim had something to gain by coming forward. Williams is black, while his accusers and 11 of the 12 jurors are white.

“That’s ignorance for people to say this is a race thing,” she said in an interview earlier this week. “It’s not about race; it’s about rape. He raped two girls.”

The AP typically does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Williams’ lawyers claim their client passed two lie-detector tests conducted by a State Bureau of Investigation examiner that were not admitted into evidence. They also contend the identification process — which involved the women picking Williams out of an Oklahoma State team photograph at the police station — was improper.

Jackson and members of Williams’ family, including his mother, were allowed to visit with him in jail after the hearing.

“I was glad to see my son. He had that big smile like he always did,” Williams’ mother, Alice Williams, said. “It was a good day.”

Jackson said Williams enrolled in classes at Oklahoma State last Friday. School spokesman Gary Shutt confirmed that Williams was signing up for classes and said he would have to work with a faculty member to arrange how he would do his coursework while he’s incarcerated.

A pre-sentencing report filed in court showed that Williams had a 2.7 grade-point average after the spring semester and had completed 88 credit hours. Jackson said Williams intends to graduate in December.

Category: Sports

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