A 61-year-old District of Columbia man who earlier this year shot to death an eviction crew worker attempting to enter the man's house to carry out a court-ordered eviction was sentenced yesterday to a minimum of eight years in prison.
Johnny Williams of 1529 Spring Place NW had pleaded guilty to a charge of second degree murder in the March 30 death of Donald Granderson Jr., 24, of 2911 Seventh St. SE.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Tim Murphy, in handing down the sentence, said that despite Williams' age, he should be imprisoned for at least half his expected remaining years--as computed from actuarial tables--to show the community that violence against eviction crews will not be tolerated.
The charge of second degree murder is punishable by up to life in prison but carries no mandatory minimum term. Murphy set a life sentence for Williams, a former security guard at the Naval Medical Command in Bethesda, but ordered that he become eligible for parole after serving eight years.
Williams' attorney, public defender Barbara Bergman, asked Murphy to consider probation or community service for Williams as an alternative to prison because of Williams' lack of a prior criminal record and the pressures he had been under facing the loss of his house.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Saffern told Murphy that Williams should receive "a substantial period of incarceration" because Williams had allegedly prepared to resist the eviction, telling his wife the night before the incident that "if the eviction crew broke in, he would have to shoot them."
According to police, Williams, who was seven months away from retirement, told authorities: "They were going to put me and my family and property on the street. I've worked too long and too hard. I couldn't let that happen to me." The Williamses had bought the row house on Spring Place in 1969 but fell upon financial difficulties and a year ago turned over title to the property to Rita A. Walker, president of RAW Associates, a local real estate firm, in exchange for the firm's agreement to pay the mortgage and some of the family's utility bills.
Under the arrangement, the Williamses rented the house from RAW for $300 a month. The family fell behind in rent payments and the company obtained an eviction order after filing suit for possession of the property.
Bergman argued that in sentencing Williams the judge should consider that the Williamses had never intended to sell their house and thought they were only receiving a loan from RAW Associates. Murphy said questions about ownership of the house should be left to the civil court, where the Williamses recently filed suit against RAW Associates.