UPDATE: Verdict in for Lexington woman arrested during 2020 racial justice protests
Williams was among more than a dozen others arrested in downtown Lexington in June 2020
UPDATE: (JUNE 13TH, 2022)
LEXINGTON , Ky. (WTVQ) – Not guilty.
That’s the verdict jurors delivered on Wednesday, finding Sarah Williams did not incite a riot during a racial justice protest two years ago outside the Lexington Police Department.
Williams was also found not guilty of resisting arrest, not guilty of possession of marijuana, but guilty of disorderly conduct and ordered to pay $250.
“It’s been a long two years, its vindication in a lot of ways” said Williams.
Wednesday afternoon 8 jurors heard closing arguments from County Attorney Larry Roberts and Defense Attorney Daniel Whitley, but only 6 jurors decided Williams fate.
Whitley speaking first, again asking jurors why are we here, arguing each witness prosecution called could not definitively say Williams acted or encouraged any violence that night.
Whitley brought up once again the drug charge put on Williams that accused her of having a crack pipe, though two years later it was found it was just a vape pen.
After the verdict Whitley said that was the most offensive part about this whole thing.
“We’re hoping that the chief weathers and Lexington police department will do the honorable thing and apologize to her, they were the ones who put that initial report two years ago, they discredited her movement, discredited her name” said Whitley.
Whitley also accused County Attorney Roberts of only calling on witnesses that were “under the control of the fraternal order of police and county attorney.”
But County Attorney Roberts argued Williams should also be held accountable for her actions.
“The beliefs are not the issue in this trial as to what she’s thinking, or doing, it’s what she did” said Roberts.
Roberts argued that even though Williams was not violent, her intent at the protest was to incite a riot.
He argued that witness testimony and body camera footage from law enforcement there that night proved it.
Though there were many times during this trial that Sarah Williams was identified in videos that were in fact actually her sister April Taylor.
“That’s like been our entire life, were identical twins and most of our family refer to us as twin, like come here twin, yeah but we are two different people” said Williams.
And, now that the verdict is in, the next thing for Williams?
“Continuing to work towards justice in a better society” said Williams.
UPDATE (7/13/22) – A jury has just reached a verdict in the trial of a Lexington activist arrested during racial justice protests in 2020.
According to the verdict issued Wednesday afternoon, Sarah Williams has been found not guilty on inciting a riot and resisting arrest. Williams has been found guilty on disorderly conduct. Williams has been asked to pay $250 in court fines and fees. Williams was found not guilty on possession of marijuana.
UPDATE: JULY 12TH 2022
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Day 2 of Sarah Williams trial, the woman accused of inciting a riot in 2020 during the BLM protests continued Tuesday.
Prosecution called on multiple witnesses to testify including officers there on the night of the protest and witnesses to events earlier in the day during a march to Southland Church.
Burnett was shown a bird’s eye camera view of the protest that night which showed protestors laying down staging what’s called a “die in”.
During cross examination Burnett was asked by defense if the video shows a riot, he says no and that he cannot identify Williams based on that video alone.
He says he believes the purpose the protestors had for laying down was to get arrested, not to remember George Floyd.
But, that wasn’t the only video evidence shown.
Sergeant Andrew Myatt was called to testify.
Video played in court to him was his body camera footage…which showed a heated moment during what was supposed to be a peaceful march earlier in the day. Myatt said Williams had put her hands on Police Chief Weathers who was participating in the march.
After some confusion judge Tackett acknowledged stipulation in the video that the woman who allegedly put her hands on Chief Weathers was actually April Taylor, not Williams.
Sergeant Gary Thurman was then called to testify to that night during the protest.
He says he was there to supervise and assist officers.
In body camera footage of Thurman’s shown to the court you can hear Thurman giving orders to the protestors that if they didn’t leave the barricade they would be arrested.
Thurman identified April Taylor as screaming at him with a bull horn and Sarah Williams as screaming at protestors to “make them work for it” as police began to arrest those lying down.
When asked by defense if Williams had instructed or told protestors to be violent during this protest, Thurman said she had not.
Video was also shown post arrest of Williams showing her and her sister April inside the police station, where they are visibly upset, cussing and yelling at officers.
No further witnesses will be called by prosecution. Defense also does not intend to call anyone else.
Daniel Whitley told us he plans on asking for a mistrial, that this trial should have only lasted a day.
Closing arguments are set for Wednesday at 9 a.m.
UPDATED STORY POSTED JULY 7, 2022 at 7:15 AM
LEXINGTON, Ky (WTVQ) – The first day of a trial for a woman arrested two years ago during Lexington’s racial justice protests wrapped up late Monday afternoon.
Beyond opening statements from the lawyers, day one of Sarah Williams’ trial featured testimony from Lexington Police officers present when Williams was arrested.
“Was there damage? No. Was there anybody beat up? No. Was there any rocks thrown through the window? No. Did they get in the place? No. That’s not the issue, if they had there’d be other charges. This is a preventative way to charge a person because she attempted, or she did, create a riot,” said County Attorney Larry Roberts.
“So that’s what this case is about: the wins. Who’s privileged, who’s oppression, who’s ideology, who’s going to prevail over who? And in the end, we’re going to walk away with a win,” said Williams’ attorney Daniel Whitley.
One of the officers, Zachary Ridener, says he was part of an arrest team on standby should “arrestible action” take place on Williams’ behalf. Ridener says they were called to arrest Williams after she was supposedly one of the people cutting zip ties, jumping police barricades, and staging a “die-in.”
“While affecting the arrest on Ms. Williams, there was a significant amount of resistance from her. She had made several statements along the lines of not wanting to go into custody, there was a lot of movements pulling her arms to the center of her body,” said Officer Ridener.
A video of a text thread was submitted into evidence by County Attorney Larry Roberts. Officer Ridener says the thread is between Williams and her twin sister April Taylor who was also arrested during the protests.
Ridener says these messages are part of the evidence of Williams’ role in coordinating the scheme. During Ridener’s testimony, Williams’ lawyer repeatedly asked the judge to approach the bench.
Williams’ sister Taylor was subpoenaed by Roberts to be a witness against Williams. Taylor’s lawyer William Davis told ABC 36 he has taken action to “squash the subpoena.”
“What you’re telling me right now is, should Commonwealth call her that she intends to answer every question by invoking her fifth amendment rights?” said Judge John Tackett.
“Yeah but she said herself, ‘if you call on me I’m going to invoke it’. She said it herself on the record,” responded attorney William Davis.
Presiding Judge John Tackett says he will make a ruling about Taylor being a witness against her sister Tuesday morning. Day two of Williams’ trial is set to continue after the ruling.
STORY POSTED AT 1:00 PM JULY 11, 2022
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Jury selection has started in the trial of Sarah Williams, an activist arrested during a racial justice protest in 2020.
Williams was among more than a dozen others arrested in downtown Lexington in July 2020. Williams claims she was arrested when walking to the car with her daughter. She’s facing several misdemeanor charges including inciting a riot, resisting arrest, possession of drug paraphernalia, disorderly conduct, and possession of marijuana.
As we’ve reported, Black faith leaders in Lexington have called on the Fayette County Attorney to drop the charges against those involved in the racial justice protests.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports some evidence prosecutors wanted to use against Williams were dismissed ahead of the trial relating to the acts of other protesters, her use of a bail fund, or allegations of harassing the media.
Other protesters arrested have plead guilty or entered diversion programs.
ABC 36 spoke to protester Casey Lyons, who entered a diversion program after being arrested with Williams:
“I’m feeling discouraged I guess you’d say,” said Lyons, “Because even after all these years–it’s been 2 years. And there’s been plenty of time. We can amply demonstrate there was no riot. We can’t change a person for inciting a riot when there was no riot. It was completely, 100 percent peaceful. No one got injured unless the police injured them so I don’t see how you could call that a riot.”
Williams took to social media earlier Monday morning, saying several community groups would be organizing peaceful protests inside and outside the courthouse.
Stay with ABC 36 for updates.