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Edward Williams

Other Ohio No Crime Cases
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On the evening of Oct. 2, 1996, 26-year-old Edward Williams was driving to a hospital in Akron, Ohio with his wife, Theresa, and their three children when he was stopped by police officer Donald Schismenos and his partner for having a burned-out license plate light and an expired temporary tag.

Williams told the officers that they were taking their nine-month-old baby to get medical help because she was sick with asthma. Schismenos ordered Williams out of the car and, according to the officer, Williams got out and attacked him. A struggle ensued, and after Williams was subdued he was charged with assaulting the two officers and resisting arrest.

Williams went to trial in Summit County Court of Common Pleas in April 1997. Both officers testified that Williams attacked them when he got out of the car.

On April 28, 1997, a jury convicted Williams of one count of resisting arrest, a misdemeanor, and one count of assaulting a police officer. He was sentenced to 90 days of house arrest and two years of probation.

In 2010, Schismenos, who had attracted attention in 2004 for accumulating numerous citizen complaints of brutality, was suspended for 15 days for arresting a woman who videotaped him as he was arresting someone else. The woman spent 18 hours in jail before being released.

During an investigation of the incident, an examination of citizen complaints showed Schismenos was the most complained about officer on the force. His suspension was increased to 45 days and he was ordered to undergo a mental evaluation.

In 2011, the police department discovered that Schismenos had covertly made videos and audio recordings almost daily of arrests as well as court proceedings and failed to disclose their existence. The recordings, which Schismenos downloaded onto the police department’s computer system, took up 30 percent of the system’s available space.

Among the recordings was a video of Williams’ arrest. The video, which was shot from the dashboard of Schismenos’ police car with a microphone recording what was said, showed Schismenos and his partner doubting Williams when he said the baby was sick and ordering him out of his car.

The video showed the officers drag Williams to the pavement where they pepper-sprayed him, punched him and hit him repeatedly with a police baton.

Schismenos could be heard saying: “You didn’t know who you were messing with, did you?”

The video also showed that Williams never struck, hit or assaulted either Schismenos or his partner in contradiction to their testimony at Williams’ trial.

In 2013, Schismenos resigned from the department amidst an investigation of his conduct. Ultimately he was not charged with any crimes.

In 2014, the Akron Beacon Journal newspaper obtained a copy of the video of Williams’ arrest and showed it to him, prompting him to file a motion for a new trial.

On March 27 2015, Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Teodosio granted the motion and vacated Williams’ convictions.

The Beacon Journal reported that Brad Gessner, chief counsel to Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, said of the dismissal: “The investigation last year into the conduct of Officer Schismenos revealed video evidence that was not turned over to Mr. Williams’ counsel at the time of his original trial.” As a result, Gessner said, “We will not proceed with a new trial against Mr. Williams based on the need of Officer Schismenos to testify as a state’s witness. Schismenos’ withholding of this video evidence seriously questions any credibility he would have in this particular case. Based upon Judge Teodosio’s ruling today, a motion to dismiss will be filed.”

Mr. Gessener also described the prosecution’s position on the likely impact of the previously hidden video—a video that clearly shows that Williams did not assault anybody, but was himself attacked by the officers: “[O]ur view of that evidence is that it would not have changed the outcome of Mr. Williams’ conviction.”

On March 30, 2015, Judge Teodosio issued an order granting the prosecution request to dismiss the charges.

In October 2015, Williams and his wife filed a lawsuit in Summit County Court accusing Schismenos and police captain Jesse Leeser used excessive force, falsely arrested Williams and concealed evidence that proved his innocence. The lawsuit was dismissed in June 2017.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/5/2015
Last Updated: 2/2/2018
State:Ohio
County:Summit
Most Serious Crime:Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1996
Convicted:1997
Exonerated:2015
Sentence:Probation
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:25
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No