BLOOMINGTON — Darvell Williams' need to settle a score with a man over a coat could have ended the lives of several innocent victims traveling on a busy Empire Street when he fired eight shots in November, a judge said Tuesday before sentencing Williams to 40 years in prison.
First Assistant State's Attorney Adam Ghrist said letters of support for Williams were reminiscent of Don Vito Corleone, the fictional character in "The Godfather," whose public displays of generosity were overshadowed by acts of public vengeance against his enemies.
"He gave Willie Love the coat off his back and when he didn't reciprocate, he went to kill him," said Ghrist and "sent a message to others what he would do to those who crossed him."
Bullets that Williams intended for Love hit a mailbox, a passing car, a window at the Lowe's store and another car where a store employee was on her lunch break. No one was injured in the incident Nov. 26 in the 2100 block of East Empire Street.
"Only by the grace of God did he not kill multiple people," said Ghrist before asking for 35 years on the attempted murder charge that carried a term of six to 30 years, with an 20 additional years for using a weapon.
Defense lawyer Brian McEldowney said he agreed with much of Ghrist's statement about the incident.
"The defendant made a terrible decision on Nov. 26, 2016. He threatened people at random who could have been harmed, but thank God were not," he said.
McEldowney asked for 28 years, arguing that Williams worked, has a family and "is certainly capable of rehabilitation."
In a statement to the judge, Williams apologized to the victims.
"It was not my intention to hurt anybody," said Williams, adding that he took issue with the state's decision to charge him with attempted murder.
In remarks before he imposed the sentence, Freitag called the shooting "mind boggling and unnecessary."
After the hearing, Ghrist said the state made no effort to negotiate a plea agreement in the shooting incident — a rarity in the criminal justice system — in order to make an example of the weapons case.
A serious sentence sends the message that gun violence is taken seriously, said Ghrist.
"I hope our community joins us in refusing to be a community that accepts gun violence as a norm," said the prosecutor.
Williams is required to serve 85 percent of the sentence. He received concurrent eight-year terms for aggravated discharge of a weapon and three years for possession of a weapon with a defaced serial number.