Eli Nationiel Williams stood before the judge with head bowed yesterday as the federal prosecutor listed the reasons why the government wanted him held on a $100,000 bond in the alleged kidnapping of his estranged wife Thursday in the Department of Agriculture.
One of Williams's children, 7-month-old Eli, has been hospitalized with a heart condition apparently aggravated by the incident, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Elizabeth Medaglia.
The incident ended when Eli and his brother, Jason, aged 21 months, were flown to Washington from Baltimore aboard a helicopter and taken to the office in the Agriculture Department where a man was holding a razor at the throat of Annette M. Williams, the defendant's wife. Williams surrended to police shortly after the children arrived.
Since then, Medaglia said, it has been learned that Williams was charged on Feb. 15 in Prince George's County with assaulting his wife. He was released on $1,700 bond pending a court hearing in that case March 23.
Medaglia said one of the conditions of his release said was that he stay away from Mrs. Williams.
"He has no respect for court orders," she told Judge Bruce Mencher of D.C. Superior Court.
He was a man driven by "obvious desperation," she said, "desperation that could cause him to flee with one child who is in his effective custody."
This was a reference to Jason. According to Mrs. Williams, who was present in court, Jason is now with Shirley Williams, a cousin of her husband who lives in the District.
Mrs. Williams wore a neck brace. There was a dark bruise under her left eye. Medaglia said she was in court to see whether her husband would be released.
Williams stood quietly throughout the prosecutor's recital. He wore a light tan suit and held a dark leather raincoat over one arm.
Franklin Henderson, his attorney, told Judge Mencher that Williams made $12,000 a year as a management assistant with the Internal Revenue Service. He said he was the father of two children and the supporter of two others and that all he wanted to do was see his children.
"Mr. Williams is not a threat to anybody," said Henderson.
"But you can't gain custody of the children by holding the wife of knife-point," Mencher said. "The actions of the past 24 hours suggest that he's a danger to someone - the wife.
"By no stretch of the imagination can his conduct be consonant with keeping the peace."
Mencher asked Henderson if he had discussed a possibility that arose in a meeting earlier in the day among the judge. Medaglia and Henderson. This was whether Williams would agree to have the children placed in the care of juvenile authorities until the domestic relations problem has been settled by the courts.
Henderson replied that his client had refused to consider that.
Mencher then said: "The court is concerned with flight. He could take the children and leave."
The judge ordered Williams, 33, held on a $25,000 bond. He directed that he be taken to D.C. jail if he failed to post it.
The D.C. Bail Agency had recommended that Williams be realeased in "third-party" custody unless it turned out that his alleged victim in the Prince George's County assault case was his wife. In that case, the agency said, Williams should be held in preventive detention.
A report from a psychiatrist in the court records said Williams was "mentally competent for trial, capable of forming a factual and rational understanding of the proceeding against him and of properly assisting counsel with the preperation of his defense."
The case was referred to a grand jury for possible action. After the hearing, Mrs. Williams said she would have left the Washington area if Williams had been freed.