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Charles Williams

Other Connecticut Exonerations
On July 29, 2014, police in Hartford, Connecticut, arrested 41-year-old Charles Williams and charged him with first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a child.

The alleged attack on Williams’s ex-girlfriend, known in court records as A.P., was said to have taken place more than a year earlier, on February 14, 2013, at her house and in front of A.P.’s 22-month-old grandson.

The risk of injury charge was later dropped, and a second count of sexual assault and a single count of unlawful restraint were added. Williams, represented by Attorney Walter Bansley IV, went to trial in Hartford County Superior Court on December 8, 2014.

At the trial, A.P. testified that she and Williams dated from 2007 to 2012, but she ended the relationship because he was physically and verbally abusive. She said he began to stalk her, demanding to know about her personal life and threatening to file false police reports against her.

On February 14, 2013, A.P. testified, she was at home with her grandson when Williams arrived. After an argument, she said, Williams pulled out a knife and demanded oral sex because it was Valentine’s Day. Later, he forced her to have vaginal sex. A.P. testified that two weeks later, Williams returned. She said Williams became violent and punched her in the face, breaking her nose. A.P.’s daughter called the police, but A.P. did not identify Williams as her assailant. She testified that she was afraid of him.

After that incident, A.P. began living in domestic violence shelters. She testified that she received medical and psychological treatment. On April 16, 2013, she told police that it was Williams who had hit her on February 28, 2013. Finally, on September 20, 2013, she told police about the alleged sexual assault. She testified that her sessions with mental health professionals had encouraged her to come forward.

A man named Elon Henry, who was incarcerated with Williams as he awaited trial, testified that three days before the trial started, Williams told him that A.P. “got me going through it right now. I’m a kill this girl ... with my bare hands, and if I don’t kill her I’m a get close and I’m a make her [perform oral sex on me.] for like an hour this time.”

Williams testified that his relationship with A.P. had been “rocky.” He said they broke up in 2011 but continued to see each other and have consensual sexual relations. He said he wasn’t at A.P.’s house on February 14, 2013, and provided an alibi for the entire day. Williams said A.P. made up the incident because she was jealous and was facing criminal charges for falsely accusing Williams of vandalizing her car. Several family members also testified in support of Williams’s alibi.

On December 16, 2014, the jury convicted Williams of unlawful restraint but acquitted him of the sexual-assault charges. After the verdict, Williams pled guilty to being a persistent serious felony offender and received a sentence of 10 years in prison.

Williams appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction. The Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the conviction on May 9, 2017.

Separately, Williams filed a pro se civil-rights complaint against the Hartford Police Department and A.P. in U.S. District Court for Connecticut, alleging police misconduct in the investigation of the sexual-assault complaint and other incidents during that time.

That lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, but as part of the discovery, Williams received several police records that had not been given to his trial attorney.

The first was a five-page statement from A.P. taken by a Hartford police officer on April 24, 2013. It detailed A.P.’s relationship with Williams and included several incidents where A.P. said Williams harmed or threatened her. The report did not mention the alleged assault on February 14.

In that statement, A.P. said that Williams burglarized her house on February 22, 2013. She said the surveillance video that she reviewed captured images of Williams entering her house.

In a report dated August 27, 2013, a second police officer had written that after she submitted an arrest warrant for the alleged burglary, a prosecutor asked her to obtain a copy of the surveillance video. The officer communicated with A.P. several times during August 2013, and wrote in the report that A.P. was unable to produce the video.

Williams filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on August 16, 2019, claiming that the state had failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, violating his right to a fair trial.

His attorneys said this evidence impeached A.P.’s testimony and undermined her credibility. The petition also said that Bansley had been ineffective because he was aware of some of this information but failed to adequately cross-examine A.P. about the delayed disclosure and the discrepancies in her use of her video-surveillance system.

After an evidentiary hearing, Judge Courtney Chaplin of Tolland Superior Court denied the petition. She said that the evidence met two prongs of a disclosure violation: It was favorable to Williams and had been suppressed by the state. But Judge Chaplin said the evidence failed the third prong, because it was cumulative, rather than material. Similarly, Judge Chaplin said that Bansley had not been ineffective and had made strategic decisions on how to cross-examine A.P.

Judge Chaplin wrote: “At the time of the underlying trial, the defense was aware of [the victim’s] delayed disclosure, the fact that she had numerous contacts with police between February 14, 2013, and September 20, 2013, and that she did not report the February 14 [incident] prior to September 20, 2013. The court also [found] that Attorney Bansley was aware of [the victim’s] failure to provide corroborating evidence, including surveillance footage, for at least one alleged incident … Attorney Bansley testified credibly that he strategically exercise[d] caution in formulating questions as a result of his targeted approach to questions to avoid using information that he [deemed] too prejudicial or information that would [have opened] a door to uncharged misconduct of the petitioner being introduced at trial.”

Williams appealed, noting that the jury had acquitted Williams of the more serious charges. The April 24 statement, he argued, was purportedly a detailed accounting of A.P.’s long and stormy relationship with Williams. “When she was finished, she signed the statement and swore to its truth,” the appeal said. “Impeaching her with her failure to include an allegation of sexual assault on February 14th in that statement would have not been cumulative of Bansley’s impeachment of her with [a] general failure to report an event on February 14th during other interactions with police.”

The state argued that A.P.’s statement, because it mentioned uncharged crimes committed by Williams, was both inculpatory and exculpatory, limiting its use to Williams.

On August 22, 2023, the Appellate Court of Connecticut granted Williams’s habeas petition and vacated his conviction. The court said that the state had suppressed A.P.’s statement, which was exculpatory, material evidence. The court said that Williams’s attorney had vigorously cross-examined A.P. about her delayed disclosure, but he lacked a document that appeared to contradict her recollection of events. “Although we cannot predict with certainty how the defense would have used [this exhibit], we also cannot discount the very real possibility that an experienced trial lawyer like Bansley would have used it in a manner that did not create an additional risk of prejudice to the petitioner,” the court wrote. It did not rule on whether Bansley had been ineffective.

Williams was released from prison on September 18, 2023. Williams’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case on November 17, 2023. Judge David Gold of Hartford County Superior Court granted the dismissal on February 15, 2024.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 4/10/2024
Last Updated: 4/10/2024
Most Serious Crime:Other Violent Felony
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2013
Sentence:10 years
Age at the date of reported crime:40
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No