Jurors in Bucks County convicted Michael Bashion Williams on Thursday, but not in the way his attorney wanted.
“This is not a kidnapping case,” defense attorney Keith Williams said in closing arguments. “This is an assault case. This is a terroristic threats case.”
Williams urged the dozen men and women to find his client guilty of those lesser charges, and to acquit the 28-year-old Trenton, New Jersey, man of the most serious charges of burglary and kidnapping — charges the attorney said prosecutors failed to prove.
The jury defied Williams‘ request in part, convicting Michael Williams of burglary, but acquitting him of the kidnapping.
Jurors returned their verdict, convicting (Michael) Williams of 12 of 27 counts after two and a half hours of deliberation.
Keith Williams said he respects what he called a thoughtful verdict from an intelligent jury, even if he disagrees with part of it.
“Obviously my client was guilty of many things, but I still don’t think that was a burglary,” he said.
Found guilty of assaulting Joseph Kohnow and his roommates Kimberly Rushing and Michael Llewellyn in February at the Falls residence they shared, along with burglary and other charges, (Michael) Williams faces a maximum of 50 years behind bars when he is sentenced, according to Assistant District Attorney Thomas Gannon.
Michael Williams was not present for the verdict, as the perpetually late defendant failed to appear for the fourth day of testimony and the trial proceeded without him. Judge Diane E. Gibbons said she would delay sentencing indefinitely, and would impose a sentence in (Michael) Williams’ absence if necessary.
His bail revoked, a warrant for Michael Williams’ arrest remains outstanding.
The defendant’s attorney told the judge early Thursday that he received a text message in the morning stating Michael Williams would not be appearing in court because he had received threats the previous evening and a person related to the defendant was shot in Trenton. Gannon said he confirmed with Trenton police that the woman who was shot sustained a non-life threatening gunshot wound.
Keith Williams said he informed his client a police escort to the courthouse could be made available to him, but his client expressed concern for his nine children.
After waiting for some time, attorneys from both sides conferred in open court with Gibbons on what instruction, if any, to provide jurors about the defendant’s absence. Gannon wanted Gibbons tell the jury Williams was only afraid of Rushing’s testimony.
Upon learning late Wednesday that police had located Rushing and that she would testify against him, Michael Williams asked to revive a withdrawn plea agreement allowing him to avoid the case’s most serious charges. Gannon declined.
After hearing brief testimony from a detective who attempted unsuccessfully to locate (Michael) Williams, Gibbons chose to side with (Michael) Williams’ defense attorney and instruct jurors they should infer nothing from the defendant’s absence.
Immediately following the instruction, jurors heard tearful testimony from Rushing.
The woman described settling in to sleep with her teenage daughter on Feb. 2 when she said Michael Williams burst into the trailer she shared with Kohnow and Llewellyn, all the while claiming Kohnow burglarized his residence and demanding to be told the man’s whereabouts.
Kohnow admitted to the burglary, but Rushing testified that at the time (Michael) Williams entered the trailer she was unaware of any such incident. She said she relayed this to (Michael) Williams, but he wasn’t buying it.
“If we didn’t tell him where Joe was, he was going to shoot up the place,” she said.
Rushing said she attempted to return to her bedroom, but fell to the floor when (Michael) Williams punched her in the back of the head, causing her head to hit a wall.
Soon after, (Michael) Williams entered her room, where she said he threatened to kill her.
“‘I won’t hurt you, but I’ll blow your (expletive) mother’s head off in front of you,” Rushing said (Michael) Williams told her daughter.
(Michael) Williams finally relaxed and left the residence, apologizing to Rushing’s daughter on his way, when his brother Gerald Parker entered and asked him to leave.
Rushing said she later heard (Michael) Williams assaulting Kohnow outside the trailer.
Prosecutors say (Michael) Williams and Parker returned to the residence the next day and forcibly removed Kohnow, taking him in a van to Trenton and to a home in Morrisville, threatening the man repeatedly before returning to Falls where police took the three men into custody.
Parker, 23, pleaded guilty to several misdemeanors in connection with the allegations. He was sentenced to spend three years on probation.
On cross examination, Keith Williams confronted Rushing with records of numerous phone calls and text messages between her phone and his client’s. Rushing said her roommates, Kohnow especially, often used her phone.