Attorney Aviva Jeruchim was able to prove that her client was not the one who killed a gas station attendant, freeing him from jail and getting his case dismissed. Below is the Boston Globe article printed on November 16, 2018.
Charges dropped against man accused of killing gas station attendant
Jeremy Fox for The Boston Globe/File
Mayra Cardona (left) and Rosa Phinn-Westby with a photo of their brother, Jose Luis Phinn Williams, who they identified as the gas station attendant fatally shot in Dorchester last month.
By Travis Andersen Globe Staff November 16, 2018
Suffolk County prosecutors Friday dropped murder and weapons charges against a young man who was arrested last month for allegedly killing a 67-year-old gas station attendant in Dorchester.
District Attorney John Pappas’s office said in a statement that the government “filed paperwork withdrawing the murder case against” Kevin Dante Williams Jr., 21. He was initially held without bail during his Oct. 9 arraignment in connection with the slaying of Jose Luis Phinn Williams.
Jose Williams, who wasn’t related to Kevin Williams, was gunned down shortly after 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 during a botched robbery inside Fabian Gas Station at 528 Washington St.
On Friday, Pappas’s office said prosecutors determined on Nov. 9 that “the totality of facts did not require Williams’ pre-trial detention, and they affirmatively filed a motion to release him on his own recognizance. Today, after a week of additional investigation that included analysis of expedited forensic testing, they concluded that the evidence was insufficient to establish guilt or innocence and filed a nolle prosequi — a legal document withdrawing the charges.”
In a statement, Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross said he agreed with Pappas’s decision to withdraw the charges against Williams.
“The Boston Police Department continues to work closely with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office to solve this case and hold those responsible accountable for their actions,” said Gross.
Police are encouraging anyone with information related to the slaying to call the department’s homicide detectives at 617-343-4470.
Earlier Friday, Kevin Williams’s mother, Regina Hunter, in a statement sharply criticized the investigation that ensnared her son.
“I respectfully offer my sincere and heartfelt condolences to Jose Williams’ family, as my son and I both grieve the senseless taking of this man’s life,” Hunter said. “I know my son to be someone who values the sanctity of life, and I’ve worked hard to raise him that way. There is an extreme injustice when the city has rushed to judgment in identifying my son as the suspect, and he has been forced to spend the last five weeks of his life in jail.”
But prosecutors maintained that police had good reason to initially take Kevin Williams into custody.
The arrest, Pappas’s office said, “was supported by a detailed description of the assailant by an independent percipient witness at the scene; a positive identification of Williams as the gunman; and corroborating video footage — circumstances that clearly supported probable cause for the initial charges.”
Prosecutors said that in the weeks that followed, detectives continued gathering evidence and prosecutors “fought in court to obtain potentially exculpatory evidence from Williams’ attorney and were forced to send grand jury subpoenas in order to obtain alibi testimony.”
Kevin Williams’s lawyer, Aviva Jeruchim, scoffed at the notion that she obstructed the government’s efforts to locate evidence beneficial to her client.
“I did have the cell phone and access to its contents,” Jeruchim said in an e-mail. “The contents were completely exculpatory. Since the prosecution has no right to troll my client’s cell phone just because they want to, I offered to preview the cell phone data from 10/6 in exchange for a bail concession with terms at the pleasure of the Commonwealth so that my client could be released, particularly since the case was incredibly weak.”
Instead, Jeruchim wrote, “the Commonwealth rejected this reasonable offer and decided to force the issue with the court. They got the same information that I would have given them with more delay. They didn’t need the contents of my client’s cell phone to confirm that they had no case against my client.”
Last month, Jeruchim said during the arraignment that Kevin Williams, who had no prior record, and his family were preparing to move at the time of the murder, and that he had “absolutely no incentive to commit these offenses, and in fact did not.”
A police report filed in the case said Kevin Williams was “observed on Homeland Security cameras coming from the area of Washington Street after the shooting prior to his stop by police,” and prosecutors said a witness later identified him as the killer.
The report said that in addition to the eyewitness identification, investigators reviewed video footage from the crime scene, and “the clothing was compared and matched to the suspect even depicting ‘Hilfiger’ underwear worn by [Kevin] Williams and consistent with the video.”
But Kevin Williams’s family pushed back against the identification process in the statement released earlier Friday.
“Although accounts seem to indicate that the suspect wore a mask and the witness identification was based on clothing commonly wore by many young men in the community, as well as the suspect’s height, shape and complexion, the Boston Police profiled Kevin as their suspect,” the statement said. “Kevin did not have a mask, was not armed, and was totally surprised when the unmarked car stopped him.”
In a court filing Friday requesting that the charges be dropped, Assistant Suffolk District Attorney Jennifer J. Hickman wrote that the initial probe was thorough.
“The Commonwealth through the Grand Jury has conducted an extensive investigation, including a review of electronic data, phone records, witness interviews, grand jury testimony and review of numerous surveillance videos,” Hickman wrote. “Upon a thorough review of the evidence, at this time the Commonwealth asserts that it is unable to meet its burden to prove the pending charges beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore files a Nolle Prosequi at this time.”
Authorities are continuing to investigate the murder, according to Pappas.
“We don’t force the evidence to fit the case,” Pappas said in a statement. “We follow the facts wherever they lead, and today they led us to this decision. The investigation remains open, it remains active, and it remains a priority for us.”
Jeruchim, meanwhile, said Kevin Williams was devastated by his time in custody.
“My client, a twenty-one-year-old young man with no record, a job and life filled with promises was labeled a murderer and incarcerated for five weeks, the Jose Williams family was let down and betrayed, and a killer is still at large in our community,” Jeruchim wrote. “I don’t call that justice. As a community, we deserve better.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.