Life sentence in trooper slaying

Ebony Norris wanted the man who killed her fiance to know about the life he took. Wesley Brown was not just a beloved Maryland state trooper but also a son, uncle and brother, Norris said. And when he could have arrested Cyril Williams for trying to punch another police officer, he let him go, Norris said.

“He gave you a chance,” Norris said Thursday, her voice rising as she addressed Williams at his sentencing in Prince George’s County Circuit Court. “You took his life.”

Minutes later, Williams was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole. On the threshold of National Police Week — in a courtroom so full that several homicide detectives and uniformed troopers stood along the walls — Norris said that she and others close to the slain trooper had attained “some sense of closure.”

“Today was a great day for the family,” Norris said. “Today, we feel like justice has finally been served.”

The case has been an emotional one since Williams, 29, gunned down Brown outside a Forestville Applebee’s in June 2010. At his trial in February, prosecutors said Williams’s primary motive for shooting Brown was that Brown, who was off duty and working security, had thrown him out of the restaurant that night. They said Brown could have arrested Williams because he had urinated in the Applebee’s and had tried to punch Brown’s partner.


Maryland State Trooper Wesley Brown, 24 (AP)

Williams’s defense attorneys had argued that although Williams might have been thrown out of Applebee’s, prosecutors did not have enough evidence to prove that he returned and shot Brown. Williams was convicted of first-degree murder and related counts.

At Williams’s sentencing Thursday, prosecutors and friends and relatives of Brown’s emphasized the contrast between the 24-year-old trooper and the man who killed him. Brown, they said, was a civic-minded police officer who started a mentoring program for at-risk youths in his Seat Pleasant neighborhood. Williams, they said, was a convict and drug dealer who bragged about killing a cop.

“He is someone who not only shot Trooper Brown, but when he left, he told his friend, ‘That’s how I get down,’ ” Prince George’s Deputy State’s Attorney Tara Harrison said. “By all accounts, he is lawless.”

Williams declined to speak at the hearing. William C. Brennan, his defense attorney, told Prince George’s Circuit Court Judge Sean D. Wallace that Williams maintains his innocence and plans to appeal. No one else spoke on Williams’s behalf.

Wallace sentenced Williams to a term of life in prison plus 25 years, without the chance of parole. In a brief statement, he said that he was imposing the most serious penalty the law allowed because Williams was “one of those special defendants who’s likely to kill again.” Prosecutors had not sought the death penalty.

Wallace also mused aloud that Williams’s act of vengeance might spur police officers to pursue a “zero tolerance” approach when deciding whether to arrest suspects or let them go. Addressing Williams directly, he said Brown “would have been well within his authority to lock you up.”

After the hearing, Brown’s relatives and troopers hugged one another outside the Upper Marlboro courthouse while praising the sentence of life without parole. Norris, who works as a D.C. police officer, said that confronting Williams in court brought her some relief.

“I just wanted him to know who Wesley was, what Wesley stood for, and that his act was senseless,” she said.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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