Jesse Jackson leads rally for Chicago basketball star convicted in sex assault
BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK Staff Reporter email@example.com August 23, 2012 9:30PM
Updated: September 25, 2012 11:01AM
STILLWATER, Okla. — Darrell Williams’ supporters put their faith in God on Thursday night — and in the unifying power of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Williams, 22, a suspended Oklahoma State basketball player from Chicago, is scheduled to be sentenced here Friday for molesting two women at a college house party. Williams was convicted of two counts rape by instrumentation and one count of sexual battery, but that means little to his supporters.
“Jesus was innocent but convicted,” Jackson said.
The civil rights leader, who addressed a packed church of all ages and races, told his rapt audience of the time he spent with Williams on Thursday in the Payne County Jail.
“His spirits are strong,” Jackson said, “his faith is strong. He declared his innocence. He believes God will see him through.”
“We respect the justice process,” Jackson continued. “We seek today to temper mercy with justice.”
Williams’ supporters decry a jury that included no African Americans, a case that involved limited physical evidence and victims who reported the assaults at an off-campus house party on December 12, 2010, in an anonymous letter.
“We’re sensitive to the rights of women, sensitive to the judicial system,” Jackson said. “We want the case to be heard, open, free and fair.”
The two women Williams was convicted of molesting attended their own rally earlier this week outside the courthouse organized by advocates for rape and abuse victims, according to the Stillwater News Press.
Williams is a former Dunbar Career Academy High School student. In his junior year at Oklahoma State, he led the team in rebounding and averaged 7.1 points a game.
On Thursday evening, neighbors of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church stood outside to watch the stream of supporters jockey for parking.
Dave LeBaron is an Oklahoma State booster. In front of his home sits a bathtub planter adorned with university logos and Cowboy orange legs. He hopes the judge is lenient. That’s mostly because Williams’ coach, Travis Ford, stands behind this player. He doesn’t always, LeBaron explained.
“Every year somebody gets kicked off the team for doing something wrong,” he said. “I believe he’s innocent.”
“If [the judge] has got to sit in front of Jesse Jackson and the NAACP, maybe he’ll be lenient,” LeBaron said.
Williams’ family is counting on that.
They hope Jackson’s presence will help bring attention to what they think is a weak case against an innocent man, not breed resentment in the judge’s mind.
The relatives arrived halfway through the rally and walked up the church’s aisle to a standing ovation. They included Williams’ mother, Alice; his sister, Alicia, and brother, Pierre, and their Aunt Mildred, who called Rainbow/PUSH headquarters in Chicago two years ago asking for help.
Alice Williams thanked everyone for showing up for her son, whose eldest brother was murdered in Chicago several years ago.
“He come too far,” she said of her middle son, crying. “He come too far to escape the violence in Chicago to have all these allegations on him like this. He don’t deserve it. So I ask you all to keep us in your prayers and continue to support Darrell.”
Family and friends plan to gather at the Payne County courthouse about noon Friday to pray for leniency and mercy. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Judge Phillip C. Corley may send Williams to prison or suspend the sentence. In July, jurors rendered their verdict and recommended a two-year minimum prison sentence.
Late Thursday afternoon, Williams’ attorneys filed a motion for a new trial, which Corley might address Friday.