Officer resignation could prompt second look at cases

by Greg Masse
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – In the wake of officer Michael Williams’ resignation from the Silt Police Department, more than 250 Garfield County and 9th District court cases may need to be re-examined.

Some convictions in those cases might be overturned, a Glenwood Springs defense attorney said.

Williams, a reserve Silt police officer since 1998, was hired as a full-time officer during the summer of 1999 and resigned from the department on May 2.

His resignation came less than a month after 9th District Attorney Mac Myers sent copies of a letter to area defense attorneys telling them Williams has a criminal past.

Myers’ letter explained that when Williams was a police officer at the Frisco Police Department, he was arrested on charges of attempting to influence a public servant and tampering with physical evidence, both felonies.

According to a story in the May 8 Rifle Citizen Telegram, those felony charges were filed after Williams was accused of administering an alcohol breath test twice, throwing away the lower results of the first test.

Williams accepted a plea bargain from Summit County prosecutors, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of first-degree official misconduct. As part of the plea, Williams was forced to resign from the Frisco Police Department in 1997.

When Williams was hired as a Silt officer, Myers began a policy of informing all defense attorneys whose clients were arrested by Williams that he had a Summit County conviction.

That information, which was supposed to be given to defense attorneys as they prepare for a trial, likely would have raised questions about Williams’ credibility as a witness in those cases.

” . but that practice may not have been consistently adhered to in recent years,” Myers wrote in an April 10 letter sent to area defense attorneys.

Myers also compiled a list of 253 defendants who were arrested by Williams and charged into Garfield County or 9th District court since he became a full-time officer in 1999. Reserve officers can only make arrests if a regular officer also is present, so none of those arrests were included in the list.

Defense attorney Ted Hess, who represented clients arrested by Williams and charged with crimes, said he isn’t yet sure how he’ll handle the situation.

“At a minimum, frankly, we’re trying to figure out what to do,” he said.

He said it’s possible some convictions could be overturned.

“It’s not clear if it would be across the board or case-by-case,” Hess said. “I’m even thinking about taking an ad out, alerting people who believe their convictions would be affected.”

In some cases, Hess said, cases hinged on the defendant’s word against Williams’. And if the defense wasn’t notified about Williams’ history, there would have been no reason to question his credibility.

“Those could be thrown out,” Hess said.

Myers was not available Thursday to comment on how the DA’s office will handle the situation.

“What I think is we have a guy who’s overzealous, then he gets into corruption and he played God,” Hess said of Williams.

Silt police chief Paul Taylor declined on Thursday to give the reason for Williams’ resignation and said he wasn’t chief when Williams was hired. Williams was hired by a previous chief, Frank Rupp.

“I cannot go into that,” Taylor said, explaining that it would be illegal for him to release employment information. “He resigned from here on May 2, 2003, and that’s all I can say.”

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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