Associated Press

Wrongly Imprisoned Man Gets Largest Ohio Award

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

AKRON (AP) — A man who will receive the largest wrongful conviction award ever paid by the state said he wants to do something he’s never done before — take a vacation.

Jimmy "Spunk" Williams, 32, was freed from prison after 10 years when a woman recanted testimony identifying him as the man who raped her when she was 12 years old. He agreed Monday to a $750,000 settlement. The state also will pay about $84,600 in fees to two lawyers.

"I feel like a king today," Williams said yesterday at a news conference. "I want to thank God and thank the state for finally compensating me." He said he is thinking about writing a book about his ordeal, but first he wants to get "away from some of these lawsuits, live and have fun, go see some sand, some blue water and just live."

A Summit County judge ordered the state to place the settlement money in escrow until Williams resolves a lawsuit brought against him last summer by his former lawyer who helped win his release in 2001. The Ohio Court of Claims and the state Controlling Board must approve the settlement, which could delay payment by an additional four weeks, said Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Petro.

Attorney Tom Watkins filed a lawsuit against Williams in August, demanding 25 percent of the settlement on top of the portion the state will pay for his fees. Williams fired Watkins in May after rejecting what would have been a $538,000 settlement. He then retained Akron attorney Edward Gilbert, who negotiated the $750,000 settlement.

In 1991, a jury convicted Williams of the 1990 rape of the 12-year-old girl, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Watkins was appointed to represent him at a parole hearing in December 2000. Watkins, convinced of Williams’ innocence, set up a meeting with the father of the victim. Three months later, the girl recanted her identification of Williams, maintaining she had been raped but admitting in court that she never saw her attacker’s face. A judge approved Williams’ release.

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