A former assistant district attorney in Sitka who was charged with assault, has taken a plea deal that will likely save her legal career.
39-year old Amy Williams was found guilty in Sitka District Court on March 19 of one count of Disorderly Conduct and Challenging to Fight, a misdemeanor.
Williams was arrested and charged with assault in May of last year following a physical altercation with her boyfriend, whom she was trying to remove from her home. Both parties admitted to drinking prior to the incident.
William’s guilty plea to the lesser charge of Disorderly Conduct comes with a $150 fine. The Department of Law placed her on administrative leave at the time of the arrest, and subsequently fired her.
Reached for comment, Williams says she was forced to take the plea deal, or she couldn’t be licensed to practice in another state. The pandemic brought a halt to most trials last year. “Otherwise,” she says, “I would have absolutely gone to trial and very likely been successful under these facts.”
From the court transcript on March 19, 2021:
Attorney Natasha Norris’s statement in defense of Amy Williams:
But I do want to make clear for the record that there absolutely was a defense here. And this whole situation completely changed Ms. Williams’ life. She was a prosecutor for 12 years, she had many awards and accolades, she did very well at her job. This whole situation just threw her life into chaos. And while I do believe that this is a trialable case, Ms. Williams is ready to move on. She’s got an employment opportunity in New Mexico. She’s absolutely been engaged in therapy. She’s doing well, and she’s made a decision for herself that it’s time to move on. Given the pandemic, your Honor, it could be quite a while before we were actually able to go to trial. Given that the state was willing to allow Ms. Williams to plea to a Disorderly Conduct, and have that as a conviction of record, Ms. Williams has made the choice to do that, rather than wait months and months for a trial.
Amy Williams spoke on her own behalf:
I want to start by saying that the only reason I’m taking this agreement is because I need to repair my tattered career. It’s irreparably damaged because of this incident. Furthermore, the state’s and the court system’s continual — and in my opinion — violation of Defendant’s Rule 45, delaying trials up to a year because of the coronavirus, has put me in a position where I have no choice but to accept this agreement. I entirely intended to go to trial because there is nothing about this situation that is okay.
In an email, Phil Shanahan, counsel to the Alaska Bar Association, says that no public disciplinary action has been initiated against Williams. The Bar’s rules can subject attorneys to disciplinary action — including suspension and disbarment — if they’re convicted of “serious crimes,” but Disorderly Conduct likely does not rise to that level.
In a similar matter in 1991, the assistant district attorney in Bethel, Bryan Schuler, was arrested and charged with shoplifting. During legal proceedings, however, Schuler was found to have a prior conviction, also for theft. Because of his apparent “criminal intent,” the Alaska Supreme Court ordered the Bar to suspend his license to practice law for two years.
Amy Williams has left Alaska, to resume her legal career in New Mexico. But it’s a bittersweet change in course for her. “I love Sitka,” she says. “I would have died at my desk if they had let me. I miss it every single day.”