Originally published in Newsday on June 25, 1997
Facing the man he said abducted him and held him for ransom 23 years ago, Kings Point businessman Jack Teich spoke out for the first time yesterday about his ordeal and the pain it caused him and his family.
"You killed me for seven days, not in body but in spirit and feelings," Teich told Richard Warren Williams. "You made me helpless. You made me hate. But fortunately, it gave me the appreciation of life itself and to be free, and love and be close to my family. You can't threaten me anymore, Mr. Williams. You gave me enough pain and suffering over the last 20 years."
As part of a plea-bargain agreement, Judge Frank Gulotta Jr. then sentenced Williams to 6 2/3 to 20 years in prison - less than the 20 years and two months he already had spent behind bars for the $750,000 kidnaping in 1974. Williams walked out of court a free man, refusing to speak to reporters.
Williams, who insists he is innocent, was arrested in 1976, convicted in 1978 and sentenced to 25 years to life for kidnaping, grand larceny and conspiracy. His conviction was overturned in 1994 by an appeals court that found that black prospective jurors had been improperly dismissed.
Williams, who was released from jail on $100,000 bail last October, pleaded guilty to reduced kidnaping and conspiracy charges last month. "He has not admitted to anything, but rather has agreed to . . . enter the plea for health and other personal reasons," his attorney, Thomas Liotti, told the judge yesterday.
Liotti told reporters that Williams, described by prosecutors at his trial as a strident black militant, had been framed by FBI agents who Liotti charged planted $38,000 of the ransom money in Williams' motor home before he was arrested in California. The rest of the money was never recovered.
"The anguish, cruelty and racism that this case has spawned do not end," Liotti said in court. "They linger today, filling this courtroom and spilling out of it with uncertainties, questions and accusations which will never end, even if there were a trial here and irrespective of its outcome."
Williams, then a California real estate broker, was arrested in California two years after the kidnaping after detectives linked him to another suspect who had worked for Teich's company for 17 years. Charges against the second suspect were dismissed for lack of evidence.
Though he never saw his kidnapers, Teich, 57, who resumed running his Brooklyn steel company after the ransom was paid and he was released, said he had no question about Williams' guilt.
Standing at a podium as friends and family looked on, Teich recalled how he was grabbed by two masked men in his driveway and held, handcuffed and chained in a closet, in a Bronx apartment. He also played three tape recordings introduced at Williams' trial during which a man identified by police as Williams demanded $750,000 for Teich's safe return.
"At gunpoint, you forced me into your car, along with an accomplice who had a shotgun," Teich said, looking at Williams. "You had a pistol, remember, Mr. Williams?"
"You blindfolded me, you handcuffed me, you covered me with a blanket and drove me to the Bronx," he continued. "You put me in a closet and chained my legs to one side of the closet and my hands to the other side, like an animal, for a week. I did not know whether I was going to live or die."
In playing the tapes, Teich recalled that he and other trial witnesses had identified the caller as being Williams. "You will remember that tape, Mr. Williams. This voice is yours."
"You made my wife and family suffer, waiting to see if I were alive or dead," he said. Teich said he, his wife and their daughter and two sons all had suffered stress-related illnesses "because of this crime and your actions."
"However, with great hardship, we managed to overcome the scars of what you did, and we are stronger today," he told Williams.
Teich recalled that the ransom money was left in a locker at Penn Station. He said that Nassau detectives and FBI agents saw Williams pick up the money and flee on a subway train, eluding authorities.
"You then made my family wait over six hours in agony and one of your accomplices lectured, threatened me about speaking or telling anything to authorities or you would come back and kill our family," said Teich. "You then dumped me like a dead animal on a secluded road near Kennedy Airport."
"You took what did not belong to you," said Teich. "You terrorized my family and you have not taken any responsibility for your actions. There is no remorse here today. You have not given up your accomplices in this crime, you have not returned any of the money . . . You actually feel good about what you've done."
Teich said he planned to pursue a $2-million civil court judgment he obtained against Williams, based on the $712,000 of ranson that was never recovered and accumulated interest. "Any money you have hidden, any assets or property you may have acquired, any job you may take, any investment you have made, any accomplices who are holding my money for you, we'll be there," he told Williams.
"This was an especially heinous crime which I'm sure has left lasting scars on the victim and his family," Judge Gulotta said. "Both sides have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of something that occurred over 20 years ago. The district attorney's office, defense attorney and the court felt it was time to bring closure to this matter rather than have to undergo a prolonged trial where all the wounds would be reopened."
Liotti said that Williams, who underwent heart bypass surgery while in prison and who has diabetes, plans to live in Westchester with his wife, Pat. "He wants to spend time with his family and try to salvage what is left of his life," said Liotti.