A 26-year-old Florida man finds himself back behind bars. But many want to know why he ever got out in the first place. An alleged non-violent offender released amid coronavirus concerns, Joseph Williams now faces murder charges.
Joseph Williams Arrested for Murder
Police in Hillsborough County first arrested Williams on March 13, according to a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office report. Police charged Willams with possession of heroin (less than four grams), a third-degree felony. Charges also included drug paraphernalia, a first-degree misdemeanor. But when Hillsborough County decided to empty out the jails of more than 100 inmates March 19, a phenomenon occurring across the country, Williams went free.
Williams, like many released, was in jail for a non-violent offense. However, Williams owned a long, nasty criminal record. But on March 19, he went back to the streets; that’s when he allegedly immediately returned to crime.
“There is no question Joseph Williams took advantage of this health emergency to commit crimes while he was out of jail awaiting resolution of a low-level, non-violent offense,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “As a result, I call on the State Attorney to prosecute this defendant to the fullest extent of the law. Every murder, every violent crime, especially those involving a gun, is a sickening example of the worst in our community, especially at a time when our community is working relentlessly to fight against the spread of this deadly COVID-19.”
Career Criminal Goes Free
Police arrested Williams again on March 20, just one day after his initial release. Officials charged him with second-degree murder. They also charged him with resisting an officer with violence, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia. A career criminal, Johnson’s record includes 35 charges in total. Convictions include two felony offenses for burglary in 2012 and felony possession of a firearm in 2018. Nothing about Williams’ record suggests he should receive an early release, in any instance.
“Judges, prosecutors, and Sheriffs around the country are facing difficult decisions during this health crisis with respect to balancing public health and public safety,” Chronister said. “Sheriffs in Florida and throughout our country have released non-violent, low-level offenders to protect our deputies and the jail population from an outbreak. … Our commitment as an agency is to keep this community safe and enforce the law.”
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