DA: Williams running drug ring from prison

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Accused high-volume drug dealer Vonnie Williams lost a chance Monday to be released into the hands of a third-party custodian when the judge suggested the custodian's fiancé was on drugs in court and the custodial candidate had too much "contact" with Juneau's drug community.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins denied 44-year-old Williams' request to lower the $75,000 bail and release the five-time felon into the hands of a 20-something Juneau woman. The judge's comments about the woman's fiancé were in reaction to his behavior on the witness stand.

A 15-day trial is scheduled to begin June 30.

The state intends to prove that Williams and co-defendant Aaron Washington led an organized crime gang that burgled and cheated money from dozens of people and businesses to support a drug enterprise that allegedly smuggled pounds of cocaine, and other drugs, into the city during a five-year period.

Opposing Williams' bail reduction, District Attorney Doug Gardner characterized Williams as a "hard-core importer and dealer of crack cocaine."

Before Collins' ruling, Gardner said a confidential informant last week reported that Williams continued to direct "drug activity" from prison.

Collins said she would not consider hearsay.

Gardner argued that hearsay was allowed at a bail hearing. Ketchikan Defense Attorney Tom Schultz said he wanted to know more about the informant.

With the trial pending, Gardner said he was unable to elaborate on his courtroom allegation about Williams' criminal activities from prison.

"I'm not going to comment on that," Lemon Creek Correctional Center Superintendent Scott Wellard said before deferring inquiries to Department of Corrections spokesman Richard Schmidt.

"I can't say it's possible. I can't say it's not possible," Schmidt said. "There's no way to completely guarantee that someone is not running a drug operation from prison."

Schmidt said prisoners have rights, which include access to local and long-distance calls. Calls are monitored and recorded by a contract company and made available to investigators. Prisoners know that, Schmidt said. Even mail is read, he said.

Schultz said the idea of Williams running a drug operation from a maximum-security prison "boggles my mind."

Williams' ex-wife and mother of his three children, Victoria Williams, could be considered for the role of custodian at a later date.

If released, Williams would work in Juneau as a home appraiser until trial, Schultz said.

Collins asked Schultz to provide "a lot" of information about Victoria Williams, who is a resident of New York.

"I would need a detailed plan," Collins said.

• Contact reporter Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or e-mail greg.skinner@juenauempire.com.

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