Judge Chitty Gives Former J.P. Williams a Two-Year Probated Sentence
Post Managing Editor
On Monday morning, Kaufman County Judge, B. Michael Chitty sentenced former Kaufman County Justice of the Peace, Eric Williams, to a two-year, probated sentence for Burglary of a Building and Theft by a Public Servant.
After a jury of twelve Kaufman County citizens convicted Williams on both felony charges in a witness packed trial that lasted a full week last month, Judge Chitty delivered his sentence after the State and Defense presented several character witnesses.
Beginning court at 10 a.m., Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney, Mark Hasse, opened the sentencing phase of the trial by calling the State’s first witness, Kaufman County Attorney, John Burt.
Burt, an Attorney who frequently worked with Eric Williams, had a disagreement with Williams after a co-client scheduled mediation session was canceled by Williams’ wife, after Eric Williams was hospitalized with Pancreatitis.
Witness Burt testified that apparently there was a misunderstanding over which party, would call the opposing attorney to inform him that the hearing had been canceled.
Subsequently, neither Mrs. Williams nor Mr. Burt contacted the attorney or his client and when Williams did not arrive at the scheduled meeting, the angry opposing counsel who was prompted by his angry client, visited John Burt’s office wanting to file sanctions.
When cross-examined by Defense Attorney, David Sergi, about the nature of his relationship with Eric Williams, Witness Burt stated, “I worked with him quiet a bit and I know he has been active in the community. I never had a problem with him except this time.”
After Witness Burt was excused from the stand, the State next called Kaufman County Attorney, Dennis Jones.
Witness Jones explained that he had been practicing law in Kaufman for about twelve years and that his office was on the Kaufman Square in the same building, and very near, the office of Witness, John Burt.
Witness Jones testified that he knew of the argument between Eric Williams and John Burt because an angry Williams had referenced it and while referring to Attorney Burt, stated, “I’ll kill him. I’ll stab him and his wife and kids, and burn his house down.”
Witness Jones stated that he responded to Williams by stating “Hold on Eric. Back off a little. Just ease up.”
When cross-examined by the Defense, Witness Jones stated, “I did find Eric’s statement to be out of character for my fourteen year association with him, but I know what I heard, I know what he said.”
When asked by the Defense if he felt Eric Williams was a danger to society and should be sent to prison, Witness Jones stated, “In my opinion, society will not benefit if Williams goes to jail. He should get probation.”
The third and final character witness called by the State was Denise Gray, who testified that Eric Williams had made a death threat against her after she broke off a romantic relationship with him.
Clearly uncomfortable and under subpoena to testify, Witness Gray told an incredible story and although Defense Attorney, Sergi, made several objections to her testimony, Judge Chitty ultimately ruled that he “would allow her testimony based on the weight on what she had to say.”
Witness Gray explained that she had dated Eric Williams seventeen years ago and that she broke off their relationship, over the telephone, and that she had told him she no longer wanted to see him because she wanted to date someone else who happened to live close to her home.
Witness Gray testified that several weeks later she attended a conference in Huntsville, Texas, and that upon arriving at the hotel to register, she encountered Eric Williams within the lobby of the hotel.
Witness Gray said, “He came over to me and we began to talk. He asked me to dinner and I said I didn’t think that would be a good idea. He said he had something he wanted to give my son. Then he showed me that he had a gun.”
Gray testified that she was scared and that a few minutes later two of her friends attending the conference came over and she used them as an excuse to get away from Williams and immediately left the lobby with her friends.
Later that evening, Gray and several associates went out to a sports bar and again Eric Williams appeared.
Witness Gray stated, “He said he wanted to talk for just a minute and then told me he had a gun and that if I turned and walked away, he would shoot me because he had nothing to lose.”
Trying to remain composed while wiping away tears, Witness Gray said, “I was scared and so I just stayed there for a minute until my friends came over and then we left. We went back to the hotel and I told my friends what had happened and they told me to tell the Director of the Conference, which I did. And together we called the police.”
Gray said, “The police told me they thought he was gone but they put someone out side my door that night. And then the next day, when I went to my class he was inside the classroom when I got there. So I went and told the Director and then I went into another room. I did not see it but I know that the police arrested him and took him away.”
On cross-examination, Witness Gray was asked if she had heard from Eric Williams since 1995 to which she replied “No”, and then she confirmed that she had not had any contact what so ever with Williams since the 1995 death threat incident.
Defense Attorney, Sergi, asked Gray “Wasn’t this just a bad break-up?”
To which Gray replied, “A bad break-up? I’m not sure what you mean. He called on the phone and I told him I wanted to have a relationship with someone else. If that’s what you call a bad break–up.”
Defense Attorney, Sergi, then asked Gray had she ever talked with Eric Williams about his gun collection. Defense Attorney, Sergi, stated, “You knew that Eric was into the guns, right?”
To which a clearly offended Gray, responded, “Did we talk about guns? No. It was not a part of our conversations. No, I did not know he was into guns. I was afraid he was going to shoot me.”
After releasing Witness Gray, the State rested and Judge Chitty recessed for lunch.
Court resumed at 1:05 p.m. with the Defense quickly presenting three witnesses in defense of Eric Williams’ character.
The first Defense witness was Fairview, Texas, Police Officer, Troy Nesbitt, who is also a Lt. Col. Battalion Commander in the Texas Guard.
Witness Nesbitt testified that Eric Williams is a long time friend and trusted comrade in the Guard. Nesbitt stated, “I know this man very well, he was and is my trusted confidant. I am shocked to be here.”
Witness Nesbitt said, “I would disagree with the verdict. He has had the key to the armory because I trust him and he has had hundreds of thousands of dollars in weapons that he had access to, and never has anything come up missing.”
When asked if he though Williams should be sent to prison for the crimes he is convicted of, Nesbitt said, “He should receive probation. You are not dealing with someone who’s dangerous. He takes care of his wife and is responsible for her. He is a very honorable man.”
Next the Defense called, Charles Neff, a member of the Texas Military Guard that brought Eric Williams “201 file”, to be presented as evidence of his military service.
And lastly Eric Williams’ wife, Kim Williams, took the stand in her husbands’ defense.
Looking both frail and uncomfortable on the stand, Kim Williams testified that she suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Schoneman Decease and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and that her husband is her sole care giver, as well as, the caregiver for her two ailing parents, who live nearby the Williams’.
Kim Williams stated, “During the trial I wanted to be here but I couldn’t because I was in bed having a flare up. Eric is a loving man. He wouldn’t do anything to hurt anyone. I am standing by him 100%. He is a loving man that has always been there for me, and my family.”
The Defense rested after Kim Williams testified, and now moving along very quickly, Judge Chitty asked for the State’s Closing Remarks.
Going first, Kaufman County, District Attorney, Mike McLelland stated, “Every night the citizens see corrupt officials on TV. Who are given silly sentences like probation or a slap on the wrist, or house arrest and people say, ‘if that was me I would not get any of those things, I’d go to jail.”
Elaborating his point, McLelland said, “The citizens want to see something happen to the man they elected. He is not an honorable man. The people need the court to confirm their trust and not like on TV. Give them hope. He must be punished. No rehabilitation. Put him in prison, away from everyone. Give everyone peace of mind if for only two years. He stole from us and he deserves to be punished.”
The Defense team responded by stating, “Probation is not a slap on the wrist. Everything he is, has come crumbling down. He has lost his law license, his seat on the bench, he could lose his Military commission and his wife has health problems. It’s the Courts duty to have mercy. To look at the facts and situation and make the punishment fit the crime.”
Getting the last word in closing statements, Kaufman County Asst. D.A. Mark Hasse, the main prosecutor in the State of Texas vs. Eric L. Williams next stepped up.
Prosecutor Hasse stated, “In spite of everything he has shown no remorse. He has thumbed his nose at the court and is still sticking to the same lies. He is still holding on to this Video Magistrate game. He just can’t admit he has done anything wrong.”
Hasse said, “He is still lying about taking three monitors. He will not quit lying to the court, and hasn’t taken responsibility for anything. If it was only a three monitor case, I would agree it was a minor issue. But he was elected in January and by May he was using Kaufman County as his own Piggy Bank.”
In closing Prosecutor Hasse stated, “He is dishonorable and this is unacceptable conduct from an elected official.”
Judge B Michael Chitty immediately ruled and sentenced Eric L. Williams to two years confinement in State Jail, and then probated the two year sentence. Williams was also fined $2,500.00, and ordered to complete 80 hours of community service.
Judge Chitty also officially removed Eric L. Williams as the Kaufman County Justice of the Peace, for Precinct 1, and his license to practice Law will subsequently be suspended.
Speaking with Defense Attorney, David Sergi, immediately following the trial’s conclusion, Sergi stated, “We violently disagree with the sentence. And we will be making a Motion for a new trial based on a conversation over heard in the hallway during the trial. We believe the District Attorney’s words will come back to haunt him.”
District Attorney, Mike McLelland, stated, “While we’re not happy that he received probation it was important to get him convicted and removed from the bench. If he violates the terms of his probation, it can be revoked, and he will serve two years in prison.”