Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jun 2003
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2003 The State
Author: Joseph Person


After plea bargain, Boo Williams faces probation stemming from drug arrest

Stuck in legal limbo for nearly three years, former South Carolina football
player Boo Williams has to wait a few weeks before resuming his life.

Fifth Circuit Court Judge G. Thomas Cooper said Tuesday he was inclined to
sentence Williams to probation after the ex-Gamecocks tailback pleaded
guilty to a lesser charge stemming from a marijuana arrest in July of 2000.

Officials from the Fifth Circuit Solicitor's office said the case was
delayed so long because co-defendant Kevin Johnson, who also played football
for USC, has been a fugitive since September of 2001. Williams, 25, told
prosecutors he would testify against his former teammate in the event that
Johnson is apprehended.

In exchange, deputy solicitor John Meadors agreed to drop a trafficking
charge to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Williams also
is charged with possession with intent to distribute within a half mile of a
school or park.

Cooper asked for a presentence investigation to determine what probation
options would be available to Williams in Georgia, where Williams lives in
his hometown of Blackshear. Cooper said he would announce Williams'
probationary sentence within two to three weeks.

"I just want a second chance in life, whether it being playing football or
just having a regular job going to work every day," Williams said during the
hearing. "I want to move on. It's been three years. I've just been standing
still like a clock with a dead battery."

Williams was arrested on July 22, 2000, after he and Johnson returned from
Texas with more than 40 pounds of marijuana, according to assistant
solicitor Eddie Donnald. Law enforcement officials stopped Johnson's car on
Rosewood Drive and found 20 pounds of marijuana in it, Donnald said. Hours
later, Richland County Sheriff's deputies arrested Williams after
discovering another 22 pounds of marijuana at the apartment Williams and
Johnson shared on Saluda River Road.

Williams told officials that he made $200 serving as a runner on the Texas
trip with Johnson, whom Williams characterized as the drug dealer.

Williams, who had $200 with him at the time of his arrest, passed a
polygraph test to that effect, Donnald said.

Joe Chaplin, Williams' attorney, said Williams came from a good family that
offered him financial support. "He had no need for $200 or $500," Chaplin
said. "Everyone was helping him along and he was doing something to be doing

Chaplin said he told Williams to sever ties with Johnson and that his client
has had no contact with Johnson since the time of their arrests.

Officials issued a warrant for Johnson two years ago after the Brooklyn,
N.Y., native failed to show for a court appearance.

Johnson, a seldom-used lineman who transferred to USC from a junior college,
has not been heard from since.

Recruited by former Gamecocks coach Brad Scott, Williams was a crowd
favorite as a running back and kickoff returner from 1996-99 at USC, where
fans often chanted his nickname after a big play. Williams rushed for 853
career yards, but was supplanted at tailback by then-freshman Derek Watson
during a senior season that was cut short due to a knee injury.

Chaplin said Williams was scheduled to visit the New York Jets as an
undrafted free agent two days after his arrest. Instead, Williams called
former Jets coach Bill Parcells to tell him he'd been arrested, Chaplin

Williams completed his USC degree in African-American studies in 2001, then
spent six months playing pro football in Italy in 2002, Williams said
through Chaplin after Tuesday's hearing. Williams, who declined to comment
directly, told Cooper he also has worked at a juvenile correctional facility
in Jacksonville, Fla.

Cooper said Williams' lack of a prior record helped convince him probation
was appropriate.

"I want to tailor it and custom-fit it to Mr. Williams' abilities," Cooper
said. "He's a college graduate. Perhaps (he can) do something to affect
young people's lives and make something good out of this difficult

Williams could have faced up to 15 years in jail or fines totaling $55,000
if he had received the maximum sentence on both charges.

Chaplin said he was pleased with Cooper's decision, adding that Williams
would follow the terms of his probation "to the letter," whether it is
served in South Carolina or Georgia.

"I think the judge took everything under consideration and made an
appropriate decision," Chaplin said, "even going a step further to get a
little more information to make his decision even more viable."
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