Willie Clark sentenced to life in Williams slaying
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER – A man convicted of killing Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was sentenced Friday to life in prison plus 1,152 years.
Willie Clark was convicted of first-degree murder in the New Year’s Day 2007 drive-by slaying of Williams. Clark’s sentencing followed a failed emergency appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court by defense attorneys.
Before he was sentenced, Clark was declared a habitual criminal, making him eligible for the 1,152 years in prison.
Clark, who had two prior felony convictions, also was convicted of 16 counts of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the Williams case.
Rosalind Williams called her son’s slaying a cowardly act and said gang violence must be stopped.
“Now, whenever someone tells me Happy New Year, it hurts,” she told the court before Clark was sentenced. “Now, when anybody says Happy Mother’s Day, it hurts because my baby will never be able to tell me Happy Mother’s Day again.”
Defense attorney Darren Cantor had asked District Court Judge Christina Habas to excuse Clark from hearing Williams’ mother address the court. Habas refused.
Rosalind Williams asked Clark to show remorse. “Make your mom and your dad proud. I know my son made me proud,” she said.
Clark, smiling at times, leaned and whispered into his attorney’s ear while Williams and other relatives spoke.
Cantor and fellow defense attorney Abraham Hutt have 45 days to file an appeal. Both left the court without comment.
Witnesses testified at trial that Clark desperately searched for a gun following an altercation at a nightclub, hopped into an SUV to catch up with a limousine carrying Williams, then fired the fatal shots.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Tim Twining said Clark lived in a gang culture where a simple insult was enough to send him into a murderous rage.
Clark also exchanged words with then-Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall as Williams arrived at the nightclub with a group. The confrontation escalated inside when somebody in Williams’ group sprayed champagne in celebration.
The dispute continued outside as Williams and his group tried to leave, and ended in gunfire a few blocks away.
Prosecutors portrayed Williams as a peacemaker as his friends argued with gang members who had taken exception to the special treatment afforded the celebrated athletes.
It took prosecutors and police nearly two years to build their case against Clark, partly because those who witnessed the shooting were part of a gang drug ring under federal investigation, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has said.
Several witnesses eventually testified they saw or heard from Clark that he fired shots from an SUV into a stretch Hummer limousine carrying Williams and 16 others from the nightclub shortly after 2 a.m. Williams died in teammate Javon Walker’s arms.
Defense attorney Hutt tried to undercut the credibility of five prosecution witnesses, saying they had their sentences reduced by a combined 188 years for testifying.
Hutt said the prosecution’s star witness, Daniel “Ponytail” Harris, faced a life sentence for a drug charge but will be released within two years. Harris testified he saw Clark fire the shots.
Clark, along with two other suspected gang members, also faces a first-degree murder charge in the slaying of a witness less than a month before Williams was killed.