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YOUNGSTOWN 18 years in prison for killer



Published: Wed, September 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The victim was slain while helping a woman who was being punched.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Tommy Williams smiled and repeatedly rolled his eyes during his sentencing this morning, as he listened to Michael Booker's relatives talk about the impact of his murder on their lives.

Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court then sentenced him to 15 years to life on a murder charge and a mandatory three years for a firearm specification in the April 23, 2000, slaying outside Pal Joey's bar on Midlothian Boulevard.

The sentence is the mandatory minimum under Ohio law, but Judge Krichbaum said he believes Williams should spend the rest of his life in prison.

Tuesday night, Booker's mother and an assistant prosecutor said justice was served by Williams' conviction.

Conviction: Williams, 23, of Meadow Street, was convicted of murder with a gun specification by a six-man, six-woman jury, which deliberated five hours at the end of a one-week retrial.

"I'm very relieved. I can now get on with my life. He took my son away from me when he was 26 years old for no reason at all, purposely, maliciously, and now he's going to pay for it, hopefully for the rest of his life," said a tearful Sharon Dunegan of Austintown, Booker's mother. "It went the right way, and now, it's finally over."

"I think the jury did a good job. I think justice was done," said Patrick Pochiro, assistant Mahoning County prosecutor.

With one of 12 jurors holding out against conviction, Williams' first trial in April ended with a hung jury after almost 14 hours of deliberations over three days.

The jury decided in the retrial that it was Williams who fired a shot from the crowd, hitting Booker, of Canfield, in the chest outside the bar.

What happened: Booker stepped in to defend a woman he did not know, who was being punched by a Campbell man, according to witness David Fitzpatrick.

A fistfight ensued between Booker and the Campbell man, and another man emerged from the crowd, put a 9mm handgun to Booker's ribs, pulled the trigger and ran away, witnesses said. Other witnesses identified the gunman as Williams.

"He said he just couldn't see a girl getting beaten up. Those were his last words, and he went to try to intervene and help this girl that he didn't even know. Mike died a hero," Dunegan said.

Defense lawyer John Juhasz said Williams might want to appeal, but otherwise had no comment. Williams' mother and sister left the courtroom Tuesday without making any comment.

Pochiro said Williams didn't qualify for the death penalty because aggravating circumstances, such as premeditation or murder during commission of another felony, were not present.




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