The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Photo by John Schreiber.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to send the governor a letter opposing parole for a man who helped plan the 1985 Halloween murder of a Los Angeles police detective who was ambushed while picking up his 6-year-old son.

Voltaire Alphonse Williams was convicted in 1989 of conspiracy in the plot to kill 42-year-old Los Angeles police Detective Thomas Williams, who was not related to him. He was acquitted of a first-degree murder charge.

Williams, then 25 years old, was sentenced in April 1989 to 25 years to life in prison.

Daniel Jenkins, the gunman who sprayed machine gun fire at the detective outside his son’s Canoga Park day care center, was sentenced in 1988 to death. Another accomplice, Ruben Moss, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The three men plotted to kill the detective out of revenge for his testimony against Jenkins in a robbery case. A series of other would-be gunmen were solicited to murder the detective even before he testified, and several backed out before Jenkins took matters into his own hands, according to court documents.

At an Aug. 4 hearing, a two-person Board of Parole panel found Williams suitable for parole after serving 26 years behind bars.

“We find that Mr. Williams does not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society or a threat to public safety, and is therefore eligible for parole,” Presiding Commissioner Jack Garner said, according to a transcript of the hearing.

However, that decision is only “the first step in a six-month process to determine whether or not he will go free,” said Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

After a 120-day review by legal staffers, Gov. Jerry Brown will have several options. He can approve, modify or reverse the panel’s decision. He can also refer it back to the full 12-person Board of Parole or allow it to stand by default by taking no action for 30 days.

However, recent court cases have refined the criteria that both the board and governor must follow, Sessa said.

While the seriousness of the crime was historically cited as a reason to deny parole, rulings in several lawsuits over the past decade have concluded that convictions serious enough to warrant a life sentence without any chance of parole will carry a sentence that explicitly eliminates the possibility of parole.

“The fundamental consideration in making a parole eligibility decision is the potential threat to public safety upon an inmate’s release,” Garner said during the Aug. 4 hearing.

Williams’ attorney told the panel that three psychologists found his client to be “low risk, low risk, low risk,” according to the transcript. He also reminded the panel that his client was not the killer.

Williams himself told the panel, “I really, really regret what I’ve done … I look at the Williams family and .. the tragedy that I’ve caused.”

The detective’s widow told the board she would never forgive Williams for his role in a “dedicated assassination plot.”

“There are no amount of words that I can draw to express my fear that Voltaire Williams will be considered for parole,” she said in a statement read during the hearing. “No matter how he has conducted himself in prison, it will never override this heinous act, nor remove any level of responsibility on his part.”

Her daughter said she didn’t trust that Williams had “true remorse” and expressed concern that he might join up with another dangerous individual like Jenkins and destroy another family.

“I have found, through my faith, (a way ) to forgive. However, I feel that he needs to pay for his actions and stay in prison,” the victim’s daughter said in a statement to the Board of Parole.

The union representing Los Angeles County prosecutors blasted the panel’s decision, calling it part of a “headlong rush to empty California prisons.”

“The magnitude of the crime and the devastation it inflicted on Detective Williams’ family appear to be just footnotes in a move designed to free up a prison bed,” the Association of Deputy District Attorneys said in a statement.

Sessa said decisions to release “lifers” had “nothing to do with any court order aimed at reducing the prison population,” calling such reports “PR claptrap” by “people who know better.”

“The vast majority of hearings result in denials,” Sessa said, citing statistics from 2014, when roughly 3,800 requests for parole were denied and 902 were initially granted, though many of those were not ultimately released.

If Williams were to be paroled, he would be released to San Francisco County and subject to a stay-away order protecting the victim’s family, Sessa said.

The board unanimously agreed to send the letter in opposition.

— City News Service 

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