Former judge speaks out after dismissal - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Former judge speaks out after dismissal

May 14, 2004

Albany-- Former Municipal Court Judge Henry Williams has been a source of controversy for several weeks now. Last month, Williams sentenced a Dawson man to 11 years behind bars for repeatedly ignoring court orders to clean up his littered yard.

That ruling sparked protests from several watch-dog groups. City leaders, concerned that Williams might be a liability, fired him.

Henry Williams defends his actions behind the bench. "If what they want is not a judge that is going to go by the law, but is going to throw a leaf in the air and see which way the wind is blowing and go that way, then I am not the person. I am sworn to an oath and I am going to adhere to that oath and that is justice regardless of race."

Until Thursday night, Williams was Judge Henry Williams, serving in Dawson's Municipal Court. But, in a five to one vote, the city council fired him. The decision to fire Henry Williams was made swiftly, and it's a decision he says he accepts.

"I don't feel the council made their decisions because of any pressures made by any outside groups or any special interest groups,” said City Manager Barney Parnacott. “I think the city made a decision they felt was in the best interest for the city of Dawson and their future."

But there were very visible pressures. For several weeks, protesters with the NAACP and Prison and Jail Project picketed outside Judge William's courtroom, upset over what they called an excessive sentence.

Willie McCray, was sentenced to 11 years in jail for not cleaning up his yard, which was filled with junk and debris. "When he cleaned the yard I let him out of jail,” said Williams. “It was never intended he would spend 11 years in jail, that was never contemplated. But I just wanted to demonstrate a point to him that he is not above the law, nor is anyone else."

It's that kind of decisiveness that has earned Henry Williams praise as well as criticism. "I cannot tell you the number of young people who are now adults who come back and call back and send cards back to say ‘Thank you’", Williams said.

But critics say Williams abused his power, and are thankful he is no longer a judge. "I don't think it is political,” said NAACP President Ezekiel Holley. “I think it is what is right."

City Manager Parnacott says now is the right time to take a hard look at how Municipal Court is run. He says the city council will review the ordinances and other operations of the court system.

posted at 4:20PM by dave.miller@walb.com