Inmate Released to Slow Coronavirus Spread Accused of Murdering a Man the Next Day; Why Didn't They Check His Rap Sheet

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Joseph Edwards Williams, 26, was one of a group of 164 inmates released on March 19 in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus through the Hillsborough County Jail in Florida. Deputies from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office have confirmed that Williams is back in custody after being charged with (second-degree) murder. The incident took place on March 20, one day after his release.

WFLA reports;

Williams was arrested on a warrant Monday night in Gibsonton. He is connected to a March 20 shooting homicide in the Progress Village area. Deputies responded at 10:40 that night to several 911 calls about gunshots fired near 81st Street South and Ash Avenue. A man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Williams appeared Tuesday afternoon in video court for his new charges: second degree murder with a firearm, a gun charge and resisting an officer.

Deputies arrested Williams on March 13 for possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia.

After his court appearance, he is now being held in jail with a combined bond of more than $250,000.

Officials make a point of saying that they are only releasing non-violent, low-level offenders. And since Williams had “only” possessed heroin and drug paraphernalia, he checked both of those boxes. WFLA reporter Justin Schecker informs us that Williams is a convicted felon. His criminal record begins in 2012.that Williams has been arrested for a total of 35 charges. Had they bothered to look at his rap sheet, they would have seen this.

Schecker said that during the release of the 164 inmates in March, the HCSO said they had excluded those charged with felonies or domestic violence and those inmates already serving a sentence.

So, how did Williams make the cut? Did no one think to look at his criminal history?

Sheriff Chad Chronister issued a statement which said:

There is no question Joseph Williams took advantage of this health emergency to commit crimes while he was out of jail awaiting resolution of a low-level, non-violent offense. As a result, I call on the State Attorney to prosecute this defendant to the fullest extent of the law.

Judges, prosecutors, and Sheriffs around the country are facing difficult decisions during this health crisis with respect to balancing public health and public safety. Sheriffs in Florida and throughout our country have released non-violent, low-level offenders to protect our deputies and the jail population from an outbreak. Our commitment as an agency is to keep this community safe and enforce the law.

Every murder, every violent crime, especially those involving a gun, is a sickening example of the worst in our community, especially at a time when our community is working relentlessly to fight against the spread of this deadly COVID-19,