Corporal acquitted of assault charges

Wife accused policeman of pushing and biting her

September 20, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A Howard County police corporal was acquitted early yesterday of all charges related to accusations that he assaulted his wife and threatened her at gunpoint.

A jury of six men and six women spent more than nine hours deliberating before returning verdicts of not guilty on each of seven assault, obstruction of justice and handgun charges against Cpl. Michael K. Williams, a 17-year veteran. The cases against him had been marked by squabbling and accusations of politicking and bias between Howard police and Carroll County prosecutors.

The prosecutors, who were specially assigned to the case, attacked Howard County police officers' handling of an investigation into possible misconduct by one of their own, while defense attorney Clarke F. Ahlers made accusations about the prosecutors' motives and methods.

As the verdicts were read, Williams, 41, swayed back and forth and nodded his head at Howard police Capt. Greg Marshall, who investigated the charges and testified that he did not believe there was enough probable cause to show that a crime had been committed.

Later, Williams said he felt "vindicated."

"I told them I was innocent from the beginning, and the verdict proves it," he said.

Williams remains on administrative duty with his police powers suspended. Howard police spokeswoman Cpl. Lisa Myers said the department's internal investigators, who sat through the trial, will complete their report now that the verdict is in.

Myers said she expects a "final determination" on Williams' situation in a few weeks.

It was Williams' estranged wife, Elizabeth -- not Howard police -- who filed the two sets of charges against the corporal for incidents she said occurred last year on Aug. 26 and Oct. 20.

"From the first involvement of the special prosecutors, this case was about seeking a conviction, not seeking the truth," Ahlers said after the verdicts were read.

But Carroll prosecutors Natasha Byus and Melissa Hockensmith said they believed the cases against Williams were viable.

"The case needed to be tried," Byus said. "The goal is to achieve justice, regardless of the hoopla."

Elizabeth Williams accused her husband of biting her and slamming her into a dining room table on Aug. 26, 2001, during an argument that started when he called her by a hated nickname, "Liz," according to testimony.

She accused him of assaulting her again Oct. 20, this time of pointing a gun at her and threatening her. They were married in July.

Her two teen-age sons testified during the trial that each witnessed one of the incidents involving their mother and stepfather.

Michael Williams said his wife was the aggressor in the first incident. He bit her in self-defense after she hurt him, he told investigators. And, in testimony Wednesday, he said the second incident never happened.

Throughout the trial, Ahlers attacked Elizabeth Williams' credibility, saying he believed she "manipulated" her sons to lie and that she, herself, lied. For example, he said, she testified that she never told her husband she was pregnant, but Williams' friends testified that she told them she was.

But prosecutors argued that her version of what happened Aug. 26, 2001, was consistent with the observations officers made at the scene -- a broken table, scuff marks, spilled soup and a bite mark on her shoulder.

Elizabeth Williams, 33, said yesterday that she is "not disappointed" with the jurors' decision and hopes her cases "will encourage other women to use the system."

"I do feel that justice has been served," she said. "I married my husband, Michael Williams, because I loved him. ... I have no hard feelings toward him."

Michael and Elizabeth Williams have each filed for divorce.

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