Federal court upholds former cop’s jail term

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Judges were sympathetic, but the 10-year prison sentence imposed on former Vicksburg Police Sgt. Kevin Dewayne Williams has been upheld by a federal appeals court.

The 5th District U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans denied Williams’ arguments that the sentence was excessive in light of his remorse and actions he had taken after accepting a bribe while a police officer here.

In a footnote to the ruling, Chief Judge Edith Jones stated that she “strongly believes that the government miscarried justice,” but agreed with the other judges, Carolyn King and Jennifer Elrod, that the sentence “must be affirmed under applicable law.”

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“Nothing in the defendant’s past record suggests that the goals of rehabilitation or deterrence required a 10-year sentence of imprisonment; he abandoned his misdeeds voluntarily; he served this country without blemish in wartime,” the footnote stated.

The judges nevertheless found the law was correctly applied. “The fact that the appellate court might reasonably have concluded that a different sentence was appropriate is insufficient to justify reversal of the district court,” they wrote.

Williams’ appeal was argued April 27 with Vicksburg attorney Josie Mayfield Hudson representing Williams. Hudson declined to comment on the ruling and said the family did not want to comment.

The appeal argued that sentencing guidelines were incorrectly applied and that Williams had self-rehabilitated.

Williams, 38, a former narcotics division investigator, was found guilty of extortion in U.S. District Court in Natchez October 2007, convicted for protecting what he believed were shipments of cocaine into the city.

In sting operations in 2002 and 2003, he took bribes during an undercover investigation conducted by the FBI, Vicksburg police and Warren County Sheriff’s Department. Investigations into corruption within the department began in 2001 when Police Chief Tommy Moffett was hired.

Williams was not indicted until March 6, 2007, by which time he had resigned from the police department and re-enlisted in the U.S. Army. When arrested a few days after his indictment, he was serving as a military police officer in Hawaii. He said his re-enlistment represented “an act of self-redemption. I wanted to do something positive.”

Williams was sentenced based on guidelines related to the quantity of cocaine he believed was in the shipments along with offsetting considerations for “abuse of a position of trust” and “acceptance of responsibility.”

At his initial sentencing on March 18, 2008, he was given the minimum sentence in the range his conviction required — 188 months in prison — followed by three years of probation.

Six days later, Williams’ sentence was reduced to 120 months in prison followed by three years of probation.

Thursday’s appeal ruling states the reduction was due to the court taking into account Williams’ service in the Army after his indictment, and that the government did not object to it.

“Williams’ service to his country is admirable and worthy of consideration as a mitigating factor,” the judges wrote. “However, we cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in deciding to reduce the sentence to 120 months, which was already less than two-thirds of the low end of the guidelines range, and not to a shorter length.”

Hudson said in May that Williams is serving his sentence at a federal prison camp in Seagoville, Texas, a low-security facility near Dallas.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at phitchins@vicksburgpost.com