CHARLESTON, W.Va.–The parents of a Black woman who was allegedly tortured by six white men and women in Logan County are lashing out at the county’s prosecutor for not demanding harsher penalties.
Matthew and Carmen Williams held a news conference recently at the First Baptist Church in Charleston to voice their frustration with Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham.
”We were OK with the first two deals that (Abraham) made with Alisha Burton and George Messer, but then he started getting up to plea deals with Karen Burton and Frankie Brewster,” said Carmen Williams, referring to four of the defendants.
”I think they should have gotten, to be honest, life in prison. We were very dissatisfied.” Her 20-year-old daughter MeganWilliams was allegedly held captive at Brewster’s trailer in Big Creek for days last summer, forced to eat feces, sexually assaulted and stabbed.
MeganWilliams was rescued Sept. 8 after an anonymous caller alerted deputies. Karen Burton, her daughter Alisha Burton, Brewster and Messer all were initially charged with kidnapping, which carries a maximum life sentence.
Alisha Burton and Messer each pleaded guilty to kidnapping and assault but received 10-year sentences. Karen Burton and Brewster pleaded guilty to lesser charges. ”To me, what’s going on here is a slap in Megan’s face. Not mine, but Megan’s.
They promised her one thing, and then destroyed it,” Matthew Williams said before breaking down into tears and leaving the podium. Abraham said all six defendants were given identical charges before the investigation was complete, and that those charges were never intended to stand throughout the criminal process.
”Each defendant will be held accountable for his or her personal actions in the case,” said Abraham. ”I have and will base all of my decisions on the evidence that the investigation has revealed.” The Williams family said the 49-year-old Brewster’s sentence could be especially light. Brewster pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault, which carries a 10- to 25-year prison term.
Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 12. Karen Burton, 46, of Chapmanville, pleaded guilty to malicious wounding, assault and violating Williams’ civil rights. If served consecutively, the charges could result in 30 years in prison.
Karen Burton was the only defendant charged with a hate crime. Felony charges including kidnapping and sexual assault are pending against Brewster’s son, 24-year-old Bobby Brewster of Big Creek and Danny Combs, 20, of Harts.
A seventh defendant, Karen Burton’s son, Linnie Burton Jr., 21, was indicted on a misdemeanor battery charge. At a recent news conference, Abraham was also criticized for not providing consistent information to the family about plea agreements.
”He spoke with my husband maybe half an hour before giving one of them a plea bargain,” Carmen Williams said. Abraham said that, as in all cases, he consulted with the family, by phone or in person, before each plea agreement. He said he planned to meet with the family again Thursday.
”I don’t know why they held a press conference a day before we had a scheduled meeting. They could have spoken to me,” he said. Abraham noted that outside groups, like Washington DC-based Black Lawyers for Justice, and the family have a financial interest in generating publicity about the case.
”I am concerned that the press conference was attended by groups that have endeavored to generate publicity for special interest causes and have in the past acted contrary the best interest of the case,” Abraham said. The Black Lawyers for Justice organized a hate crimes rally in November that generated $5,000 in donations, and the Rev. Al Sharpton publicly gave Carmen Williams $1,000 for MeganWilliams as a Christmas present.
In the past, Abraham and the Williams family have clashed publicly over the family’s presence in the media. Against Abraham’s wishes, the family marched through Charleston on Nov. 3, along with more than 1,000 protesters, to demand that hate crime charges be filed in the case. Abraham filed a guardian ad litem request Nov. 7, calling for a legal guardian to be appointed to protect MeganWilliams’ interests.
He later dropped the request. At the time Abraham said, ”Obviously, if they went back on what they told me, then I could go back to court and file the same motion.” No such motion will be filed, he said later. ”This continued quest for publicity will undoubtedly adversely affect the case.
However, I have provided more than adequate advice against this conduct and will take no further action,” Abraham said. Megan Williams did not attend the news conference. She recently underwent surgery for internal injuries. The Associated Press generally does not identify suspected victims of sexual assault, but Williams and her mother, Carmen, agreed to release her name.
Carmen Williams has said she wanted people to know what her daughter had endured. ”Of course, she’ll never get over this, but she’s recovering very well,” Carmen Williams said.