Williams Honored as Ohio's Meritorious Assistant Prosecuting Attorney of the Year

On Thursday, December 12, 2019, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association (OPAA) awarded Wayne County Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Williams Ohio’s Meritorious Assistant Prosecuting Attorney of the Year Award. Williams was nominated for the award by Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Lutz. At a ceremony in Columbus last Thursday, Williams was publically praised for his achievement by the OPAA Awards Committee Chair, Pickaway Prosecuting Attorney Judy Wolford, who read the following from Prosecutor Lutz’s nomination of Williams:

I enthusiastically offer my highest recommendation on behalf of my Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Williams whose name I submit for your consideration who, after a total of 38 years of devoted and faithful service in the criminal justice profession, will be retiring four months from now. Senior Assistant Prosecutor Williams began his career in criminal justice as a prosecutor’s investigator for Ashland County in 1981.  Beginning in July 1985, he served as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Portage County until he accepted an assistant prosecuting attorney position with the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in 1987. Now, after having served the citizens of Wayne County for 33 years, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Williams will be retiring in the end of March 2020. During those many years, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Williams brought justice to countless victims while making sure that thousands of defendants were held accountable for their crimes. Out of the thousands of cases he has handled over the course of his extensive career, the following stand out:

  • He tried the first DNA case in Wayne County history, an Aggravated Burglary, Rape, and Attempted Murder, using PCR and RFLP DNA analysis provided by Cellmark Diagnostics, before BCI began doing DNA analyses;
  • He tried a former police officer who thirty years later held the exact same investigator position that Senior Assistant Prosecutor Williams had held at the beginning of his criminal justice career. The defendant had picked up a developmentally-disabled runaway girl and sexually assaulted her, and is now serving a sentence of ten years to life thanks to Senior Assistant Prosecutor Williams’ outstanding devotion to duty and excellent work;
  • He tried the first, and perhaps only, case of Aggravated Murder against a trooper of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Despite an excellent prosecution, the jury only found the trooper guilty of a charge of Voluntary Manslaughter after a pastor on the jury convinced the other jurors to pray with him about appropriateness of the verdict;
  • He tried three Aggravated Murder trials that have resulted in sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, one of which was the second of only two death penalty trials held in Wayne County since the enactment of the current death penalty law following Furman v. Georgia. The jury recommended the death penalty, but frustratingly, the jury’s recommendation was overturned by the judge; and
  • He tried the longest trial in Wayne County history which, surprisingly, was not a homicide case, but involved a thirteen-million dollar Ponzi scheme. Despite a clear interstate nexus, the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the matter. Again, frustrated but not deterred, Senior Assistant Prosecuting Williams doggedly pursued justice for the victims of the defendant’s scheme which landed the defendant in prison. Interestingly, years later when the same offender got out of prison and started another Ponzi scheme, federal authorities then decided to take that case and obtained an extensive prison sentence despite the loss to the victims being six million dollars less than the case Senior Assistant Prosecutor Williams prosecuted.

I have known John Williams since 1991. From that time to now, I have been a defense counsel on the other side of cases he prosecuted, I have been a fellow assistant prosecutor working alongside him, and I have been his boss. In every single interaction with him, I never had any reason to doubt his integrity. If he said it, I could completely trust it was true and factual…. I think the loyalty and faithfulness demonstrated by Senior Assistant Williams to not only the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, but to the vocation of prosecutor in general, should be recognized and honored. The void from his absence after he retires in March of next year will be sorely felt, not only by me personally and by the rest of my office staff, but by all the citizens of Wayne County as well. John Williams perfectly represents the true definition of a devoted, dependable and trustworthy public servant.