Two-time escapee enters plea under heavy guard
A few extra guards were helpful.
They all kept close watch of Steven Mark Williams, and Williams – unlike his last time in Nevada County Superior Court – didn’t escape. Instead, he pleaded not guilty to escape charges Thursday.
“They’re not going to take any chances,” Williams’ court-appointed lawyer, Ron MacMillen, said with a shrug.
Six officers – court bailiffs and prison guards – stood guard in the courtroom after Williams, bearded and puffy-eyed, appeared in waist, wrist and ankle chains and an orange jumpsuit. Another three officers were in the hallway.
Williams, 40, was glum for most of the hearing as three officers stood within 10 feet of him. A couple of guards appeared to glance occasionally at Williams’ ankle chains.
“I couldn’t put myself in his place,” MacMillen said later. “I don’t know – he seems to be holding up well.”
Williams grinned when Judge John Darlington asked if he could afford his own lawyer.
“I didn’t think so,” the judge said.
The twice-convicted bank robber was last in court June 3 for another alleged bank heist when he shed his leg irons and sprinted away from two bailiffs and into a wooded Nevada City neighborhood. He was gone for 30 days – on a trip that allegedly took him to Nevada, Oregon and Washington, and included another bank robbery – before his arrest in Auburn.
Courthouse security measures were beefed up as a result, and Williams’ appearance provided a glimpse into the new way the Sheriff’s Office is handling high-risk inmates.
“And there will be more of that,” Sheriff’s Capt. Ken Duncan said, alluding to cases involving inmates at Wayne Brown Correctional Facility.
Williams, however, is being held at the new Folsom Prison between hearings. “He’s their body,” Duncan said.
Williams is already serving 93 years to life in prison for a pair of robberies and has six strikes under the state’s three-strikes law.
His two robbery convictions are for holdups at El Dorado Savings in Grass Valley and Bank of America in Auburn, both in 2000. Last year, after escaping the Auburn jail, he allegedly robbed Placer Sierra Bank in Glenbrook Basin.
A Sept. 24 trial was set in the latest case.
Even though Williams can’t possibly serve his current sentences, much less the possible sentences in pending cases, Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson said Williams’ latest prosecution is partly about sending a message.
“I see no reason to reward him” for further crimes, Wolfson said.
Williams also faces a robbery charge in South Lake Tahoe, where he allegedly held up a bank two days after his escape. His arraignment in that case hasn’t been scheduled, an El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office clerk said Thursday.
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