Caribbean American Legislator Sentenced to Time Served After Jury Reaches Mixed Verdict

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Jumaane Williams

Jury Finds Him Guilty of Obstructing Ambulance, but Not Guilty of Disorderly Conduct

NEW YORK – Caribbean American New York City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams was sentenced to time served on Monday after a jury reached a mixed verdict on charges relating to his arrest for protesting the planned deportation of Trinidadian-born immigrant rights activist and community leader, Ravi Ragbir.

The jury found Williams, 42, the son of Grenadian immigrants, guilty of one count of obstructing an Emergency Medical Services, but not guilty on counts of disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration.

Williams flanked by his attorneys, speaks to reporters after the verdict
Williams, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn and Lieutenant Governor candidate for the State of New York, was immediately sentenced to time served.

Judge Steven M. Statsinger said the sentence was for the few hours that Williams had spent in police custody after his arrest.

The misdemeanour conviction will not impact on Williams’s ability to run for public office or to vote.

“I believe and still believe your heart was in the right place, and your moral compass, which is otherwise as far as I could tell completely accurate, went a little awry,” said Judge Statsinger after imposing the lenient sentence on Monday

Williams had objected to a lenient plea offer from the Manhattan district attorney. Instead, he said he wanted to go on trial to further highlight the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policy.

Williams, later told reporters that the “rulings validate what I have known to be true- that the actions for which I was arrested were necessary and impactful.

“It’s always been my belief that you have to do what you can, with what you have, where you are, and that those with privilege have an obligation to take risk on behalf of those who don’t.

“I welcomed the risk on behalf of Ravi and undocumented immigrants living under the tyranny of ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency), and I am glad that the jury saw that the actions of myself and the 17 others arrested alongside me were reasonable and necessary.

“It is my hope that throughout New York, people continue to rise up to oppose such immoral acts. My thanks to all who have supported me, especially the New Sanctuary Coalition under Ravi’s leadership.”

Williams and his attorneys, Ron Kuby and Rhiya Trivedi, had presented a case arguing that his actions to stop the deportation of Ragbir were reasonable, and that the actions by the New York Police Department (NYPD) and ICE, which Williams was impeding, were not themselves unlawful given New York City’s status as a sanctuary city and “the rough conduct which federal and local officials exhibited at the time of the arrest.”

Trivedi thanked the jury for “recognizing that what the NYPD was doing that day was unlawful and immoral.

“We encourage more people to do as Jumaane did – to put their bodies on the line to stop ICE from disappearing people we love and need,” she said.

Williams’ trial began on July 31, and the defence rested on Friday after Williams himself testified. The jury deliberated through Monday after closing statements were delivered.

“I am very disappointed that Jumaane has a conviction on his record because of his actions to defend me,” Ragbir said.

“My wife, my friends and I are forever grateful that he took those courageous steps to fight back against our inhumane and brutal deportation system, and I hope others will take up this spirit of action.”

On January 11, Williams was arrested, along with 17 others, including New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, as he protested the detention and imminent deportation of Ragbir .

Ragbir had reported to the federal authorities for his routine check-in with ICE, when he was taken into custody, without warning, and transported from the building in an ambulance to be deported.

A crowd of hundreds of protesters surrounded the vehicle and impeded its path.

Williams testified in court that his intention was to “buy more time” to delay and ultimately prevent Ravi’s deportation.

Eighteen days after Ragbir was detained, a US federal judge ruled ICE’s actions to be unconstitutional.

Ragbir’s deportation has since been stayed, and he remains in the United States. – CMC

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