A Harford County man convicted of drug distribution was sentenced to life in prison yesterday after he was linked to the death of a confidential informant in what a federal prosecutor described as "the brutal execution of a witness."
U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. said yesterday that he was convinced by a preponderance of evidence that Gary B. "Fatboy" Williams Jr. "did indeed cause the death of Robin Welshons, and it was first-degree murder."
Although he was never charged with the murder of Welshons, Williams, 28, was confronted with evidence and police testimony during his sentencing last week that he had orchestrated her killing.
Welshons, who was working as an informant for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, had recorded telephone conversations with and purchased drugs from Williams, according to court records.
Welshons was fatally shot in a doorway of an Aberdeen motel in February 2006. The night before her death, Welshons called the DEA task force officer to report that Williams had driven by the Waffle House where she worked, giving her "dirty looks" before driving off, according to court documents.
Prosecutors introduced evidence as "relevant conduct" at the sentencing that connected Williams to the death of Welshons, in an effort to persuade the judge to sentence the defendant to life in prison. Prosecutors had to prove Williams' involvement only by a "preponderance of evidence."
Quarles wrote in his sentencing opinion that he considered two factors: whether Williams caused the murder of the witness and to what extent it should affect his sentence. Quarles cited evidence, including bullets that were found and recorded telephone conversations.
"These incidents, taken together, establish that it is more likely than not that Williams caused Welshons' death and unavailability as a witness at his trial and sentencing," the judge wrote. "Williams' conduct also resulted in the death of Robin Welshons, which triggered application of the first-degree murder cross reference."
During the sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Copperthite read a transcript of a telephone conversation between Williams and Welshons, in which Williams asked, "You ain't working with no feds, are you, girl?" and threatened her.
Williams' father, Gary Williams Sr., had told Donald Licato, an Aberdeen police detective, that his son had come to his house the night before Welshons was shot, demanding a .357-caliber revolver and vowing to "take care of" Welshons, according to testimony.
Bullet fragments recovered from Welshons' body were consistent with those of a .357 revolver, court records showed.
Licato testified that Williams' father was told on the morning of Welshons' death by his son to get rid of the remaining .357 cartridges and holster. The elder Williams told police that he threw the holster into a trash can and the cartridges in a field behind his workplace at the Richlin Ballroom. Records showed that two bullets were recovered from the area.
In December, Williams, of Abingdon, was convicted on two counts of cocaine distribution and one count of crack distribution by a federal jury.
In his closing remarks, Copperthite said Williams had shown an "absolute disregard for the life of Robin Welshons" and that he ordered her death to prevent her from testifying in his trial.
Defense attorney Christie Needleman urged the judge not to sentence her client to life.
While acknowledging that Welshons's death was "a most egregious and serious" matter, Needleman said the prosecutors had not shown enough evidence to link her client to Welshons' killing.
The judge disagreed and outlined his reasons in a 13-page opinion.
The victim's mother, Mary Welshons, wiped away tears after hearing the judge's sentence and said, "I believe justice was done today."
Williams' eyes reddened, and before being led out of the courtroom, he turned to look at his friends, who were shaking their heads in disbelief. They declined to comment.