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Judge defends courtroom party for prisoner

A Texas judge who threw a courtroom party to celebrate the capture of a fugitive defended her actions Wednesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A judge who welcomed a former fugitive back to her courtroom with balloons, streamers and a cake defended her actions Wednesday, saying that getting a killer and abuser of women off the streets is reason to celebrate.

Judge Faith Johnson threw the party Monday upon sentencing 53-year-old Billy Wayne Williams to life in prison.

Williams, who previously served time in prison for killing his wife, went on the lam a year ago while on trial in Johnson’s court on charges he choked his girlfriend until she passed out. He was convicted in absentia of aggravated assault.

“A full year later, he was recaptured, off the streets, and no longer a community threat. And, yes, I threw a party,” the judge said in a statement.

The judge said about 4 million U.S. women a year are physically abused by their husbands or live-in partners, and some 30 percent of female murder victims in this country are slain by their husbands or boyfriends.

“When these kind of stats begin to shrink, then we’ll have cause to celebrate,” she said. “Until then, this man’s recapture — particularly in national domestic violence month — sends the message that the law is against domestic violence.”

Troubling to some legal observers
The party for Williams troubled some legal experts, and Seana Willing, executive director of Texas’ Commission on Judicial Conduct, said the incident may have violated requirements that judges remain impartial and observe proper decorum.

The commission could decide to investigate, she said. Judges found guilty of misconduct face a range of discipline, from a warning to removal from the bench.

Williams was captured last week at a gas station in suburban Arlington. While on the run, he posed as a lawyer and used aliases and disguises, authorities said.