An Alabama man who last year threatened the president and started driving north, then ran into a state trooper’s car during an attempted traffic stop in Pulaski County, had his charges amended downward in a sudden plea agreement Wednesday. The commonwealth’s attorney said the case showed a need for a special court for those who served in the military.
Operation Desert Storm veteran Kenneth Roy Williams, 55, of Meridianville, Alabama, was arrested on April 22, 2020. A federal agency had contacted law enforcement in Pulaski County to say that a relative of Williams reported that he had threatened then-President Trump, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith.
Griffith declined to discuss the specifics of the threat.
When Virginia State Police tried to pull over Williams’ vehicle on Interstate 81, he collided with a trooper’s car before being stopped. Williams was charged with two counts of attempted murder of law enforcement officers, among other offenses.
By last fall, Williams was determined not to be mentally competent to stand trial and months of restorative care began in Virginia’s mental health care system. In August, with Williams found to be restored, his case was certified to a grand jury, which on Tuesday returned a series of indictments against him.
Wednesday’s hearing in Pulaski County Circuit Court was listed as a calendar hearing to set the schedule for the rest of his case, but instead became a plea hearing, with an agreement worked out between the commonwealth’s attorney’s and public defender’s offices. In a statement issued after the hearing, Griffith said that his assistant who handled the case, James Crandall, wanted Williams to be able to enter his pleas as soon as possible after his indictment.
Court records showed that the two attempted murder charges were amended to two counts of assault and battery of a law enforcement officer, and that Williams entered no contest pleas. Judge Brad Finch imposed two five-year sentences, then suspended all but one year and three months of it. Finch said that Williams is to be supervised by the probation office for three years after his release.
Williams also was convicted of destruction of property, eluding, and failing to stop, with a three-year sentence for each charge and all of the time suspended.
After the hearing, Griffith called for a veterans treatment docket to be established in the region’s courts to handle such cases.
“This case is a reminder of just how many veterans struggle to reintegrate out of the service and there is no set time line for when their struggles may lead them down this path,” Griffith said.
The New River Valley already has special courts for certain drug offenders. In Montgomery County, there also is a docket for some cases involving mental health issues. These courts were spearheaded by specific judges.
A veterans court “could make a real difference in ensuring other veterans like Mr. Williams can receive specialized services, and individualized treatment plans,” Griffith said.
The prosecutor said that the state troopers who tangled with Williams immediately saw that he was not mentally well. Some of the troopers were veterans and “were able to relate to him” better after they learned that Williams was honorably discharged from military service, Griffith said.
Griffith said that he thinks veterans have earned a right to a special court. “We owe them everything we can do,” he said.