Death penalty sought for killer of CO Eric Williams

U.S. Attorney's office has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty

By James Halpin
The Citizens' Voice

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Thursday filed notice that prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty against the gang assassin accused of murdering Correctional Officer Eric Williams last year, alleging in court documents that Jessie Con-ui has a history of violence, including involvement in a previous plan to kill a cop.

Prosecutors said they think Con-ui, 37, should face death if convicted of first-degree murder of a federal correctional officer in the death of the 34-year-old officer from Nanticoke, who was fatally beaten and stabbed at U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan on Feb. 25, 2013.

According to prosecutors, Con-ui charged at Williams, knocked him down a staircase, then stabbed him more than 200 times and stomped his head. Williams was working alone in a unit housing about 130 inmates and was preparing to lock them into their cells for a nightly head-count when he was attacked.

A notice of intent prosecutors filed Thursday cited a number of aggravating factors to justify the death sentence, including that Con-ui is an Arizona gang assassin already serving 25 years to life for a 2002 murder.

“The defendant committed the offenses in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner involving torture or serious physical abuse to the victim,” said the notice, signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis P. Sempa.

The document also noted that Con-ui was previously sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for drug trafficking and that his alleged attack on a public servant required “substantial planning and premeditation.”

Prosecutors also detail a number of “additional uncharged serious acts of violence” by Con-ui, including allegations that he agreed to help stab other inmates at Arizona State Prison Complex — Florence in September and October of 1999 and assaulted an inmate with a metal food tray at Arizona State Prison Complex — Winslow in June 2000.

Prosecutors alleged that while in Phoenix in May and June 2003, Con-ui conspired in planning a number of murders, including that of a law enforcement officer, but police arrested him before the acts were committed. He also threatened to hurt a correctional officer at U.S. Penitentiary at Victorville, California, in October 2009 and stabbed another inmate with a shank in November 2010 while at U.S. Penitentiary at Pollock, Louisiana, according to prosecutors.

“The defendant represents a continuing danger to the lives and safety of other persons,” the notice said, identifying Con-ui as a member of a prison and street gang, the Arizona Mexican Mafia. “The defendant demonstrated a low potential for rehabilitation as evidenced by, among other things, his commission of these crimes while serving a sentence of confinement.”

Con-ui has also displayed an “utter lack of remorse” for his conduct, according to prosecutors.

His attorney, San Diego-based Mark F. Fleming, declined to comment on the filing Thursday.

Prosecutors have alleged Con-ui killed Williams because he was angry the officer had ordered a shakedown of his cell a day earlier.

After finding Williams and summoning medical aid, a lieutenant armed with a pepper ball gun led colleagues around the cell block locking down all the cells. Officers saw blood on Con-ui, who had in a sink an eight-inch, sharpened Plexiglas knife, according to prosecutors.

After being handcuffed, Con-ui blurted out, “Hey man, I am sorry, but I had to do what I had to do. I am sick of all your people’s disrespect,” according to prosecutors.

He is currently awaiting trial at ADX Florence, the nation’s only supermaximum security prison in Colorado, known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

Prosecutors left the decision on Con-ui’s potential punishment to the Williamses, who chose death.

“If you go ahead and take a guy that’s life in prison and you give him another life sentence, you literally did nothing,” Williams’ father, Don Williams, told The Citizens’ Voice in December. “You did nothing, except to give a green light now to people to go and repeat this kind of behavior. You just endangered every damn CO walking a cell block.”

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