Megan Williams Update

In September of last year, Megan Williams, a young black woman was held for days by three white men and three white women, during which time she was sexually assaulted and tortured until authorities rescued her after an anonymous tip. Williams was then charged for writing bad checks before her injuries had even begun to heal.

In February, defendants Alisha Burton and George Messer both pleaded guilty to assault and kidnapping and were each sentenced to 10 years. Yesterday, after pleading guilty, Frankie Brewster (who owned the trailer in which Williams was held captive and is the mother of another defendant, Bobby Brewster) was sentenced to 10-25 years for second-degree sexual assault, and Karen Burton (Alisha's mother) was sentenced to 10 years for violating Williams' civil rights and two 2-10-year sentences for assault, which will be served consecutively.. Brewster will be eligible for parole in 10 years, and Burton after 6 ½.

Needless to say, the sentences hardly seem sufficient, not only because of the duration and horror of what Williams was put through, but also because of the defendants' criminal histories. At the time, Logan County (West Virginia) Sheriff W.E. Hunter said: "They all have previous records and have been arrested numerous times. They are familiar to law enforcement." Frankie Brewster, for example, had already served five years after pleading down a first-degree murder charge to manslaughter.

I'm not certain why the decision was made to accept lesser pleas in this case, especially since the original prosecutor (who's recently gone on active military duty) said at the time he would seek maximum sentences. Any concerns about Williams, whom some reports have identified as mentally disabled, being an ineffective witness surely should have been mitigated by the facts that law enforcement rescued her from the scene, which was described as straight from "a horror movie," and that the defendants were hardly upstanding citizens. It also should have been weighed against the value to the entire community of keeping the defendants off the streets as long as possible, but it whiffs strongly of having been weighed instead against the embarrassment to the community of keeping such a racially-charged rape story in the (inter)national news during a trial.

Conceivably, the decision is also a commentary on prosecutors' concerns about their ability to find a jury who would convict, which is a truly appalling thought.

Danny Combs and Bobby Brewster (Frankie's son) still face felony charges including kidnapping and sexual assault.

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