The former chief of staff to an Atlanta Police chief pleaded guilty Monday to smuggling a cell phone to her son at the DeKalb County jail where he was being held for murder.
Pearlene Williams, a long-time APD veteran who rose to the rank of major, was sentenced to three years on probation and 40 hours of community service. DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Michael Hancock also sentenced Williams as a first offender, meaning if she stays out of trouble during her probationary period her conviction will no longer be on her record.
Last June, while she was chief of staff to then-APD Chief Richard Pennington, Williams visited her her only child, Muhammad Kareem, at the Dekalb jail and gave him a cell phone and a battery. Kareem is now serving a life sentence for the Oct. 30, 2007, killing of 58-year-old Frederick Miller, the manager of a pawn shop on Covington Highway, during a robbery.
When jailers found the contraband on Kareem after his mother's visit, Williams was questioned. "She made a full confession," Assistant District Attorney John Melvin told Hancock.
Williams, who resigned from APD, was indicted on two counts: violating her oath of office and smuggling contraband to her son at the jail. In exchange for Williams's guilty plea, prosecutors dropped the violation-of-oath-of-office charge.
Melvin opposed a request by defense attorney Dwight Thomas to give Williams first-offender treatment.
Williams was a police officer who abused her trust, Melvin said. "It's a stigma that should stick with her," the prosecutor said of Williams's felony conviction.
Williams should be held to a higher standard, Hancock agreed. "She's chief of staff for the police chief in the capital city of this state and it cannot be overlooked," the judge said. "Public officials ought to be living exemplary lives and not be breaking the rules and the law."
But Hancock later relented, agreeing to give Williams a chance to wipe her record clean.
Williams did not bring drugs, weapons or cash into the jail, Thomas told the judge. "It was simply one thing: The weakness of a mother for her son."
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