Jury finds driver in fatal guilty of murder

Lloyd Williams, who blasted through eight stop signs

Lloyd Williams, who blasted through eight stop signs and six red lights before smashing into another car and killing its driver, was found guilty of murder. (June 18, 2011) (Credit: Jim Staubitser)

A Hempstead man who blasted through eight stop signs and six red lights before smashing into another car and killing its driver last year was found guilty of murder Friday.

It was the third time since Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice took office in 2006 that she has won a murder conviction in a motor vehicle case -- a rare charge that is difficult to prove.

Lloyd Williams, 28, now faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison when Judge Tammy Robbins sentences him Nov. 16 in the crash that killed Chad Whethers, 24, of Roosevelt.

"Lloyd Williams was fleeing from police, drunk, at such a reckless speed that tragedy was inevitable, and his depraved choices cost the life of an innocent young man," Rice said in a statement after the verdict.

Whethers' friends and family wept as the verdict was read. "A guilty verdict is not going to bring my friend back, but it still feels good," said the victim's best friend, Keith Epps, of Roosevelt.

In addition to second-degree murder, the jury found Williams guilty of second-degree manslaughter, aggravated vehicular homicide, and drunken and drugged driving. He was acquitted of first-degree assault.

Williams' defense lawyer, Joseph Lo Piccolo, of Garden City, said he was troubled by the verdict, since the jury found Williams guilty of murder and not assault -- crimes that fall under the same legal theory.

"This has now created a unique issue for appeal," Lo Piccolo said.

During the two-week trial, prosecutors made the legal argument that Williams' behavior behind the wheel was so depraved that he deserved the same punishment as if he had killed Whethers intentionally.

Prosecutors said Williams and another man were involved in a fight with bouncers at the Phase Bar in Freeport and a shot was fired shortly before the 3 a.m. crash on June 18, 2011.

As Williams and his friend drove off in Williams' Mitsubishi, they fled a Freeport police car with its lights on and sirens blaring, prosecutors said. Williams had three times the legal limit of alcohol, as well as marijuana, in his blood, tests would show.

Lo Piccolo argued that his client was escaping a gun-wielding bouncer and said there was no evidence Williams knew he was being chased by police.

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