Rampaging shooter gets 110 years

By: 
CHRIS MCCONNELL
Outlook staff writer
Outlook photo by Chris McConnell. Charles Wayne Williams is led away from court after District Court Judge Michael Moses sentenced him to 110 years in prison–with 70 suspended–on Tuesday for a March 27 shooting spree in Laurel where he discharged dozens of rounds at law enforcement over a 2 1/2 hour period. Williams was found guilty on five counts of felony assault with a weapon and two counts of felony criminal endangerment. He won’t be eligible for parole until at least 2027.

Charles Wayne Williams was sentenced to 110 years in prison–with 70 suspended–on Tuesday by District Judge Michael Moses for a March 27 rampage where he discharged 79 rounds at law enforcement from four different weapons while terrifying a neighborhood. 

The incident began when Williams’ wife confronted him for texting another woman and escalated to where he fired dozens of rounds at law enforcement who responded to the domestic disturbance call. When Laurel Police Officer Jeremiah Johnson arrived on scene Williams began shooting at him and other officers, deputies, and Montana Highway Patrol troopers. The shootings and subsequent standoff lasted 2 1/2 hours before Williams surrendered.

Five Laurel police officers and six MHP troopers were in court for Tuesday’s sentencing that began with the prosecution reading a statement from Julie Mees, the wife of MHP trooper Darvin Mees. She told of the impact the incident had on their family and said Williams didn’t accept the consequences of his actions, while asking for the maximum sentence. 

The prosecution asked for a 50-year sentence, which they said was only half of the statutory maximum. They asked for a 20-year prison sentence on one of the felony assault counts and ten years on three additional counts. They only recommended a five-year sentence on the assault of his wife, stating she was not cooperative. They cited the defendant’s light criminal history and substance abuse issues as the reason for not asking for the maximum sentence. On the two counts of criminal endangerment they asked for a 10-year sentence to run concurrent with the 50-year sentence. 

The defense asked for a 30-year sentence with 20 years suspended. Counting the 232 days Williams had already served, that meant he would be parole eligible in only 2 1/2 years. However, the defense attorney stated “there is a zero percent chance” he would be paroled at his first hearing and it would likely be four years until he had a realistic chance to be released.

Judge Moses called it a “difficult case that involved a standoff.”

He said the valor that law enforcement shows isn’t recognized enough and addressed the officers and troopers in the courtroom, saying “this case stands out [because of the] amazing work you all did in the early morning hours on March 27, 2017.”

Then, addressing Williams, he said “the punishment has to equal the harm caused. And the harm was horrific in this case.”

Judge Moses then referenced the pre-sentence investigation where Williams said he only “shot up a house.”

“You didn’t shoot up a house, you shot at officers. Your [claim of intoxication] is not a legal or factual excuse. There were bullets in houses, trailers...all over. I will not make you an example and the law isn’t designated to to that, but the court will hold you responsible.”

Before announcing the sentencing Judge Moses said, per law, the sentencing must be commensurate with other offender sentences, be neutral in regards to race, gender and religion and take into account aggregating circumstances. 

“The first 79 [aggregating circumstance] are bullets,” he said.

He also addressed Williams’ claim that he suffered from PTSD and was in a blackout during the incident. He had said “I should be treated and released.” Williams also had blamed childhood abuse as a reason and said he didn’t have any substance abuse issues. 

Judge Moses didn’t buy those excuses and said “you were caught by your wife texting another woman and you reacted. There is no link between childhood abuse and your behaviors.”

On July 7, Williams was sent to the State Hospital in Warm Springs for testing and doctors said his PTSD claims were false and an addiction evaluation showed he had severe substance abuse issues with possible bi-polar disorder. Judge Moses said the final report recommended custody and “the treatment does not require hospital care and can be treated with medication.”

Judge Moses said the mitigating circumstances included Williams’ guilty plea to all charges without a plea agreement, his lack of any substantial criminal history and the fact that he eventually accepted responsibility. However, Judge Moses noted, “you are not a repeat offender, but you are a violent offender, and that must be punished.”

Then he handed down the 110 year sentence with 70 years suspended.

Count 1 (felony assault on wife) 10 years Montana State Prison with 5 suspended

Count 2 (felony assault w/ weapon on Officer Johnson) 20 years MSP with 10 suspended running concurrent with count 1.

Count 3 (felony assault w/ weapon on MHP Trooper Chase) 20 years MSP with 10 suspended running consecutive to count 2 and concurrent with count 1.

Count 4 (felony assault w/ weapon on MHP Trooper Mees) 20 years MSP with 10 suspended running consecutive to counts 2 and 3 and concurrent with count 1.

Count 5 (felony assault w/ weapon on a Stillwater County Deputy) 20 years MSP with 10 suspended running consecutive to counts 2, 3, and 4 and concurrent with count 1.

Count Count 6-7 (felony criminal endangerment on neighbors) 10 years each to run concurrent with all counts

Williams was also ordered to pay $8,791.20 in restitution. 

Judge Moses said the sentence “provides a light at the end of the tunnel [for Williams]. When you are paroled you will be supervised for life and you will never be able to possess a firearm again.”

Williams will not be parole eligible until 2027.

Officer Johnson and Laurel Police Captain Mark Guy have since received the LPD Medal of Valor Award for their actions during the incident. 

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