A Cook County judge Tuesday shaved nearly 30 years off the prison term of a man convicted in a 2007 shooting that left 10-year-old Arthur Jones dead.
Clarence Williams’ 2011 bench trial was one of the first Judge Maura Slattery Boyle presided over, and the judge said testimony in the case convinced her that Williams played a role in a shootout at the intersection of West 55th Street and Halsted in 2007.
Caught in the crossfire between rival factions of the Gangster Disciples and the Jet Black Stones was 10-year-old Arthur. The fifth-grader was struck in the neck by a bullet, and died at Comer Children’s Hospital.
Boyle found Williams guilty of first-degree murder and handed him a 43-year sentence. But six years later, a state appeals court ruled that evidence at trial didn’t prove Williams was a gang member or had been part of the ambush of Disciples members that claimed Jones’ life.
On Tuesday, Boyle grudgingly resentenced Williams on the lesser charge of aggravated discharge of a firearm — a count that carries a 15-year maximum sentence.
“A little boy is dead,” Boyle said Tuesday, as Arthur Jones’ mother and two of his sisters wept in the courtroom gallery. “To say that Mr. Williams’ actions were senseless and careless would be an understatement.”
Boyle gave Williams the 15-year maximum sentence. Williams, who already has spent more than nine years behind bars, could be released in late 2019, said his lawyer, Michael Schmiege.
Arthur Jones’ mother, Rita Perez, said she had watched her son die 10 years ago, and that the family visited his grave last week, on what would have been his 20th birthday. The 10-year-old, “A.J.” to friends and family, was the youngest son among Perez’s 11 children. Testifying at the sentencing hearing, a tearful Perez pointed to Williams as she recounted the pain of losing her child.
“That man is clearly responsible for my son’s death,” Perez said. “My whole world has changed. If I don’t get no justice, there will be no peace in my life.”
After the hearing, Perez said the lighter sentence was “heartbreaking.”
“My son died in front of me,” she said. “I just want to keep his spirit alive.”
The shootout between the Jets and Disciples had been preceded by a fistfight at a nearby shopping center, but it wasn’t clear that Williams had been involved in the scuffle. Williams admitted to firing a gun when he heard other gunshots, but said he fired into the air.
“The appeals court made it quite clear that there was no evidence that [Williams] was involved” in the shootout, Schmiege said. “Not under the theory of accountability, or any manner whatsoever. [Boyle] obviously disagreed.”
Williams’ co-defendant, Lesean Jackson, was given a 60-year sentence as the likely triggerman in the shooting. Steven McCaskill, who handed Jackson the gun used in the killing, was sentenced to 20 years.