FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 20, 2012
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Former Air Force Airman Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison
For Murder of Army Sergeant in Germany
- Five Others Convicted in 2005 Beating -
WASHINGTON - Rico Rodrigus Williams, 34, a former Air Force senior airman, was sentenced today to 22 years in prison on second degree murder and witness tampering charges stemming from the death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson in Hohenecken, Germany, in 2005, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, and Brigadier General Kevin J. Jacobsen, Commander of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI).
A jury convicted Williams in November 2010, following a trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable Paul L. Friedman.
According to the government’s evidence, Williams was the leader of a gang, the Gangster Disciples sect, in Ramstein, Germany. On July 3, 2005, Williams and others gathered in the small town of Hohenecken near the Ramstein, Germany Air Base, and killed 25-year-old Sgt. Johnson in a gang initiation ceremony.
Evidence presented at trial showed that Williams and the others struck Sgt. Johnson with their fists and kicked him for more than six minutes. When Sgt. Johnson asked one of his fellow gang members to take him to the hospital following the beating, Williams was consulted and ordered the member not to take him there. Williams further told the member that if he did take Sgt. Johnson to the hospital, “he could cancel Christmas,” which the member took to mean that Williams would kill him. Sgt. Johnson died the following day from blunt force trauma injuries, including hemorrhaging to the brain and heart.
According to evidence presented at trial, Williams later attempted to intimidate and made threats to another witness with the intent to hinder communication to law enforcement regarding Sgt. Johnson’s death.
Williams was the sixth person to be convicted of charges in the investigation into Sgt. Johnson’s death. Airman Nicholas Sims and Army Sgt. Rodney Howell were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in military court proceedings and Army Private Terrance Norman was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Airman Jerome Jones was convicted in military court proceedings of conspiracy to commit assault, obstruction of justice, gang participation, and other charges. Army Specialist Bobby Morissette was convicted in military court proceedings of gang participation and other charges.
“Sgt. Juwan Johnson served our country in dangerous places, including Iraq, where he was seriously injured by a roadside bomb. He recuperated from his injuries and was nearing the end of his service when his promising life was ended in a frenzied beating by Rico Williams and the Gangster Disciples,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Today’s sentence holds Rico Williams accountable for his leadership role in this brutal act and for his attempts to cover up the crime.”
“Mr. Williams, a former member of the Air Force and the former leader of the Gangster Disciples, participated in the murder of Army Sgt. Johnson, who died in a senseless and violent gang initiation ceremony,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Gang violence cannot be tolerated, whether it occurs in communities throughout the United States or, as in this case, within our armed forces. Mr. Williams, the sixth person to be convicted in connection with Sgt. Johnson’s death, will now serve more than 20 years in prison for his crimes.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Long-Doyle of the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Christine Duey of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. The case was investigated by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Chesapeake, Va. Police Department.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Attorney General Breuer, and Brigadier General Jacobsen praised the efforts of the lead investigators in the case: AFOSI Special Agents Zacheriah Gladle and Wilbur Thompson, and Special Agent Daniel Altman, formerly of AFOSI and now with United States Aid to Developing Nations. They also cited the efforts of Special Agent Nick Inge, who along with Altman arrested the defendant, and members of the Chesapeake Police Department SWAT and Vice & Narcotics teams, who assisted in the arrest.
They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorney John Hill, who assisted with legal issues; Paralegal Jeannette Litz; Witness Security Specialist Dawn Tolson-Hightower; Victim Advocate Yvonne Bryant; Criminal Investigator Duncan Templeton, and Intern Lauren Vermette. Finally, they expressed appreciation for the work of the prosecutors, Debra Long-Doyle and Christine Duey.