It appears Robert Williams, a.k.a. Robert Byrd, is a criminal who fell through the cracks more than once.
"He is clearly a poster child of a habitual offender," says Madison Rankin District Attorney Michael Guest.
Guest says investigators are still researching Williams' rap sheet. They've dug up seven prior convictions, two of them out of Georgia. Our investigation found that Williams was already considered a habitual offender when he was indicted for business burglary in Hinds County in September 2001, but Circuit Judge Winston Kidd only sentenced him to three years in prison, with credit for time already served.
In 2007, Williams received his first felony fleeing conviction, for a chase out of Pearl in 2006. Again, he received credit for time already served, and only had to serve one year of a five-year sentence. He ended up violating his probation on that crime, and was forced to serve out his full term.
Why didn't Williams get a heavier sentence for the Pearl evading case dating back to 2006? It could be because he was using the name Robert Byrd at the time, and it wasn't matched to Robert Williams.
Guest says even if the Williams convictions were not apparent for the court, two convictions out of Georgia, for burglary and drug possession, were apparent at the time of that sentencing. Still, Williams did not receive the maximum sentence. Even when an offender is labeled a habitual offender, the maximum sentence is not a requirement.
"There are sentencing options the court has at their discretion, but they are not mandatory," Guest says.
Guest assures us that Williams, if convicted, will be prosecuted fully for the police chase Sunday that resulted in the death of Milinda Clark, and the shoplifting and assault on a Ridgeland police officer that preceded the chase. A conviction on the chase alone will result in a 40-year sentence.
A representative of Judge Winston Kidd says that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the reasons behind any of the sentences he hands down.
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