Bill Rinehart is Senior Correspondent for 700WLW News. Though despite his best efforts, no-one else will refer to him by that title.
He came to the Big One in August, 2004. His beat covers City Hall, Hamilton County Commissioners, breaking news, and anything else that comes along.
In his private life, he likes books, movies, television shows, and music. He is also a big fan of certain foods, and beverages. His hobbies include doing things, not doing other things, and blogging.
This blog takes an unflinching look, behind the scenes, in the newsroom. But mostly, it's just an excuse for you to not do any real work.
You may recall I was mugged last January. (Read about it here.) And this morning, after months of hearings, the case finally went to trial.
(Photo courtesy: Hamilton County Justice Center)
His name is Lawrence Williams. He turned 18 last November. In December, according to court records, he was arrested for theft, and entered a plea of no contest. Mr. Williams was sentenced to 60 days incarceration, but was obviously granted early release, likely because of overcrowding at the Justice Center.
I say obviously, because on January 24, he stuck his finger in my back. (As previously cited.) But, now the rest of the story:
During one of the almost monthly hearings regarding the case, I learned that an hour before he got the jump on me, Williams tried to shake down a 15 year old boy at a bus stop. All he got in that attack was a pair of earbuds from an MP3 player.
He confessed to that mugging after he had been arrested for mine. Cincinnati Police had both confessions on tape.
Williams' court-appointed attorney, Tom Raisbeck, is not a public defender. He takes some cases pro-bono, and confessed to me that he heard my story on the radio with Daryl Parks, and thought to himself, "I bet I'll get that one." Raisbeck drug this case out as long as possible, which was annoying to me, but still admirable. He could have just told Williams to plead guilty and be done with it, but he fought for this young man, in hopes the witnesses/victims, would get tired and bored and would stop coming to court.
Raisbeck made a motion to dismiss that was supposed to be heard today. I'm assuming he was going to ask that the confessions be set aside. But, after seeing myself, the other young man and his mother in court, he advised Williams to accept a plea deal: Guilty to each of the two counts of robbery, and hope for a leinient sentence.
Doing research right after this all went down, I learned about Williams' previous conviction. And I guessed he had a lengthy juvenile record. I didn't know how lengthy.
He'd been convicted, as a juvenile, for seven assaults, a couple of disorderly conducts, and a charge of burglary. Judge Jody Luebbers took that into consideration during the sentencing. She could have given him up to 16 years, or she could have given him less. But she went with the recommended four years.
Earlier in the proceedings, the prosecutor and victim advocate asked what I wanted: hard time, or leniency. I said jail. Mr. Raisbeck asked me again if that's what I wanted, suggesting that I'd "be throwing him to the wolves". Honestly, I think this kid has been running with the wolves already. I've had the impression that he'd been given leniency before, and the lessons hadn't sunk in.
Williams entered the guilty plea, and received two years, to be served consecutively, with three years of community control, (probation), upon his release. (Williams does get 127 days time-served to his credit, for the time sitting behind bars, waiting for trial.)
Williams turned and faced the audience and offered an apology, saying he knew what he did was wrong, and asked for forgiveness.
The mother of the young man said she was sorry this happened, and was scared for her son. She pointed out that Williams is still young, and still has plenty of time to improve his life. Her words were good enough for me, so I chose not to speak.
I went to every hearing, whether I needed to be there or not, and the officers involved in the case were all pleased with that: Too often, they say, victims don't bother to show at all. But, being there every time demonstrates to the defense that you're not going to let it go, you're not going to forget, and they're going to have a tougher time getting their client off.
So, what does it all mean? It's entirely possible Williams will spent his time in prison learning from tougher, meaner, smarter, better criminals, and will emerge angry, hardened, and unemployable. Or, maybe he'll see the light, and choose a better direction when he's released. I hope for the latter, but I don't know what will happen.
What I know for sure is that there's an 18 year old mugger who won't be on the streets tonight. And maybe his friends will get the idea that if he can be put away, so can they.
But, in the meantime, they're still out there, and I'm told they're still hitting people Downtown.