HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
A federal judge today said that it was unfortunate that the stepmother who brutalized and tortured 5-year-old Talia Williams would spend no more than 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright called Delilah Williams "evil" and "depraved" and said she seemed to take satisfaction out of regular beatings of the little girl, who the judge said was just an inconvenience to her "wicked stepmother".
The judge cited one beating in particular where Delilah stomped Talia until she felt a bone snap and the child defecated. She then forced Talia to sit on a toilet, while she shoved her in the stomach so hard it damaged the fixture and when Talia fought back she was slammed hard enough into the wall to damage it. Delilah said she then left the house to get her nails done.
Delilah Williams refused to make a statement, the heavy-set woman appeared in court wearing a white prison jumpsuit, her hair hanging all the way to below her hips, prevented observers from seeing her face.
"You are wicked. You are evil," Seabright said. "Knowingly and seemingly with pleasure you engaged in this pattern of torture."
Seabright also said he understood many people felt that the 20 year sentence was inappropriately low; but he said because the federal government wanted to charge her husband Naeem Williams with a death penalty offense, which would require a trial, they had to make a deal with Delilah that would guaranty her cooperation and testimony. That was back before the trial brought all of Delilah's conduct our in public. "In hindsight it was a pretty poor deal," Seabright said. "In hindsight a 20 year sentence is difficult to swallow." The deal did not allow the judge to change the sentence.
Seabright also had harsh words for the prosecutors in the case, and by extension, the U.S. Department of Justice. Seabright noted that after the jury was unable to unanimously agree on the death penalty, one prosecutor said that life in prison was "the appropriate sentence," and another said he felt he had wasted years of his life on the case.
Seabright the comments were a "disappointment."
"If the government didn't believe in this process I don't know why we went through this process. That question needs to be answered by others," the judge said.
Jurors shared that disappointment.
"It's kind of disturbing that he said he wasted six months of his life 'cause that's basically telling us that we wasted four of ours -- that we didn't have to go through the process," said Kelle Mata, a juror who said he attended today's sentencing for closure.
Mata also agreed with the judge's scathing description of Williams.
"20 years is not a sufficient amount of time that she deserves. She has no remorse. I don't even believe that she stopped beating her," Mata said.
Williams' attorney, Alexander Silvert, says he prepared his client for the likelihood the judge would say something to the effect he did, given that this was his first opportunity to state his position and his point of view on the case. He says Williams' may not have displayed her grief in court, but he witnessed it first-hand.
"I absolutely believe she has remorse. She has expressed it on many different occassions," said Silvert, a First Assistant Federal Public Defender. "If you repeat a story over and over and over again for 9 years -- it's kind of hard to have the emotion and the effect that one would have when they've heard it for the first time, which is what the judge and the jury did."
Silvert said while he understands the court's opinion of his client and her plea agreement, he believes Williams' sentence is fair.
"The government very much needed her testimony. They struck a deal that was based upon the need for her testimony and her relative culpability in the case. As we know, she's not the one who dealt the blow that killed the child. So when you consider all the factors, I think it was a fair outcome," Silvert said.
Silvert says the question the public should be asking isn't about fairness, but rather why the death penalty was pursued in the first place.
"I think it is a perplexing question of why this death penalty case was brought in the state of Hawai'i. It was brought by the Bush Administration when they were targeting Democratic states that didn't have the death penalty, so it's difficult to understand the politics of a death penalty case and why it continued on under the Obama Administration. So I think the court struck a nerve when the judge talked about it and I do think that's a concern and an issue that the public needs to be aware of," said Silvert.
First Assistant U.S. District Attorney Elliot Enoki says his office stands by their decision.
"We prosecuted Delilah and Naeem Williams for murder. The jury found him guilty and eligible for the death penalty. While the U.S. decision to seek the death penalty was warranted, we respect and accept the jurors determination that life in life in prison was an appropriate outcome," Enoki said.
Enoki went on to credit jurors for their dedication and diligence in weighing the evidence and throughout the trial.
"We want to emphasize that at no time has the government has ever indicated that the prosecution of either of these individuals was a waste of time," said Enoki.
The Justice Department did not reply to requests for comment.
Delilah Williams will get credit for the nine years she's already spent behind bars. She will serve the remainder of her sentence on the mainland.
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