Suspended justice of the peace Eric Williams was sentenced to two years probation by 422nd District Court Judge B. Michael Chitty, during a sentencing hearing held Monday.
The move ended a legal process that began with Williams’ May 24, 2011 arrest on burglary of a building and theft by a public servant charges. The arrest was in connection with the theft of three computer monitors from Kaufman County’s south annex on May 15, some nine days earlier.
A Kaufman County jury deliberated for three and a half hours on March 23 of this year, before returning guilty verdicts on both charges.
Chitty also handed down a $2,500 fine on each count (for a total of $5,000 in fines) and assessed 80 days of public service.
Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, who had asked for jail time during his closing arguments, said he was disappointed in the sentence, but said that Williams will suffer in other areas.
“We’re disappointed … but the ancillary effects will be pretty substantial,” McLelland said. “I think we can live with what we got. “
The district attorney will report the convictions and sentencing to the boards connected with Williams’ law license and his military commission.
Williams’ defense team called his Texas State Guard commanding officer to the stand as a character witness, during Monday’s proceedings.
Lt. Col. Troy Abbott, who is also a Fairview, Texas police officer, testified that Eric Williams serves as his executive officer and has been in charge of the unit’s weapons armory.
He said there is “hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment strewn throughout that armory” and there has never been any incident of anything being stolen.
Abbott said he had known Williams since the 1980s and considered him a friend.
Williams’ wife Kim testified, telling Judge Chitty about medical issues she has and that her husband is her caregiver. She also said Williams takes care of her elderly parents, doing chores and picking up groceries for them.
The prosecution called witnesses that testified to death threats made by Williams in the past.
Janice Gray was a district court coordinator in Coryell County in the mid 1990s. She said she met Williams at a conference and the two, then single, began dating for a short time before breaking up. The next year, she ran into Williams at the same annual conference.
Gray said they talked in the lobby of the hotel where the conference was being held.
“He said he had something for my son,” Gray testified. She said Williams showed her a gun.
Later, as she and several other court coordinators attending the conference went out in the evening, Gray said Williams showed up at the same “sports bar” where her group went.
She said he asked her to step away for a private talk, then told her if she walked away, he’d shoot her … that he had nothing to lose.
When a couple of the other court coordinators came over, she took the opportunity to leave with them and get away from Williams, she said. Gray said she later called the police and Williams was arrested and questioned, although she eventually decided not to pursue charges.
Assistant district attorney Mark Hasse also called local attorney Dennis Jones to the stand to testify about another death threat attributed to Williams.
Jones testified that he knew of a problem with a mediation hearing Williams was in charge of, one that involved another local attorney, Jon Burt, and a Dallas-area attorney. Burt had testified that after the hearing was canceled, the Dallas-area attorney wasn’t notified. That attorney expressed some anger about the lack of notice.
Later, Jones testified that Williams showed up in the law offices that he and Burt share on the Kaufman Town Square. Jones said he heard Williams threaten to kill Burt, his wife; his children and that he would burn down their house.
Both Burt and Jones testified they felt Williams should get probation.
Defense attorney John Sickel, during closing arguments, said probation is not “just a slap on the wrist.”
He said that there are other “punishments” coming, Williams will lose his seat as a judge and that he will likely lose his military commission and law license.
“My argument is have the punishment fit the crime,” Sickel said. “How many people come in here and have a mere conviction destroy their life … their livelihood?”
After the conclusion of Monday’s proceedings, lead defense attorney David Sergi said there would “be more from this case.”
He also said he expected to file an appeal in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Dallas, “within the next couple of weeks or so.”