Darrent Williams’ mother to speak at sentencing for man convicted of killing son

By P. Solomon Banda, AP
Friday, April 30, 2010

Sentencing judge to hear from Williams’ mother

DENVER — The mother of slain Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams is among eight people expected to address a judge before a man convicted in the New Year’s Day 2007 slaying is sentenced to life in prison.

Rosalind Williams has called her son’s slaying by Willie Clark a cowardly act and said gang violence must be stopped.

Friday’s sentencing will follow a failed emergency appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court by defense attorneys.

A two-hour hearing held before the sentencing ended with Clark being declared a habitual criminal, making him eligible for 1,152 years in prison.

Clark was convicted of first-degree murder, 16 counts of attempted first-degree murder, and aggravated assault. He had two prior felony convictions.

Defense attorney Darren Cantor asked District Court Judge Christina Habas to excuse Clark from hearing Williams’ mother address the court. Chief Deputy District Attorney Tim Twining objected.

“Quite frankly, I think he’s denying the victims their opportunity to have their day in court,” Twining told Habas, who said she would review the request and rule before the hearing.

Witnesses during the trial testified that Clark desperately searched for a gun following an altercation at a nightclub, hopped into an SUV to catch up with a limousine carrying Williams then fired the fatal shots.

During the trial, Twining said Clark lived in a gang culture where a simple insult was enough to send him into a murderous range.

Clark also exchanged words with then Broncos’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall as Williams arrived at a nightclub with a group. The confrontation escalated inside when somebody in Williams’ group sprayed champagne in celebration.

The dispute continued outside as Williams and his group tried to leave, and ended in gunfire a few blocks away.

Prosecutors portrayed Williams as a peacemaker as his friends argued with gang members who had taken exception to the special treatment afforded the celebrated athletes.

It took prosecutors and police nearly two years to build their case against Clark, partly because those who witnessed the shooting were part of a gang drug ring under federal investigation, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has said.

Several witnesses eventually testified they saw or heard from Clark that he fired shots from an SUV into a stretch Hummer limousine carrying Williams and 16 others from the nightclub shortly after 2 a.m. Williams died in teammate Javon Walker’s arms.

During the trial, defense attorney Abraham Hutt tried to undercut the credibility of five persecution witnesses, saying they had their sentences reduced by a combined 188 years for testifying.

Hutt said the prosecution’s star witness, Daniel “Ponytail” Harris, faced a life sentence for a drug charge but will be released within two years. Harris testified he saw Clark fire the shots.

Clark, along with two other suspected gang members, also faces a first-degree murder charge in the slaying of a witness less than a month before Williams was killed.

will not be displayed