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Man who set fire to witness’ car in R. Kelly case sentenced

November 17, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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On Wednesday at Brooklyn Federal Court, Michael Williams was sentenced by United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly to 96 months’ imprisonment for setting fire to a vehicle at the home of a victim-witness who was expected to testify at trial in the R. Kelly case in the Eastern District. 

Williams set the car on fire in order to intimidate the victim-witness and prevent her from cooperating with the government’s investigation in the case. 

On June 11, 2020, Williams poured gasoline around an SUV parked outside of a residence in Florida where a victim-witness in the Kelly case was staying and set fire to the vehicle. At the time the arson was committed, there were four adults, including the victim-witness, and two children inside the home. Williams committed the arson to prevent the victim-witness from continuing to cooperate. 

The victim-witness’s mother called 911 and told the 911 operator that her grandchildren, whose cries can be heard in the background of the call, were in the home and they were unsure if it was safe to remain in the house given the fire risk outside. 

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The vehicle, leased by the victim’s father, was heavily damaged. Fire investigators also detected an accelerant along the outside perimeter of the residence. Williams had previously made internet searches about the detonation properties of fertilizer and diesel fuel, witness intimidation and witness tampering, and countries that do not have extradition agreements with the United States. 

Breon Peace, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Ricky J. Patel, acting special agent-in-charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), and Dermot F. Shea, NYPD commissioner, announced the sentence. 

“In a violent act designed to instill fear and stop a witness from testifying at trial, Williams set fire to the victim’s vehicle in the middle of the night while it was parked outside of a residence occupied by four adults and two children. Intimidating witnesses and threatening the safety of crime victims undermine the very fabric of our judicial system and will never be tolerated,” said United States Attorney Peace. 

“Williams attempted to use violence and intimidation to divert the course of justice and prevent a victim’s voice from being heard. HSI continues to stand alongside our partners to maintain the integrity of the judicial process and support the brave individuals who  come forward to testify in criminal proceedings,” stated HSI Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Patel. 

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Maria Cruz Melendez, Elizabeth Geddes and Nadia Shihata are in charge of the prosecution.

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