Williams accepts plea, but faces up to 55 years in prison


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Lillie Williams, a Coralville woman previously accused of first-degree murder in connection with the death of a 14-year-old boy in a house fire, accepted a plea deal on Tuesday.

“[Richard and Susie Bryant] were the ones who lost a son,” Beth Beglin, an assistant Johnson County prosecutor said. “No parents should have to lose a child in such an absolute senseless manner like Raymone.”

Beglin said the possibility of Williams’ 6-year old grandson testifying against her at trial was one of the reasons a plea deal was reached.

“This has been an extremely difficult process for him,” Beglin said after the proceedings. “One can’t imagine the impact it would have on him to testify in court against her own grandmother.”

Williams faced life imprisonment if she had been convicted of the original Class-A felony, but she will serve at least 50 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter as well as first-degree arson and burglary.

The terms of the plea will require Williams to serve a maximum of  25-year sentences for both the burglary and arson charges consecutively, but Beglen said with good time served, Williams could potentially serve less than 25 years.

“We would hope that the death of a child would affect the length of time Ms. Williams serves,” she said.

The September 2011 fire killed 14-year-old Raymone Bryant. Beglin said Mary Smith, who rented the house at the time of the fire, lost everything in the fire.

Williams defense was originally focused on diminished responsibility based on her intoxicated state during the fire, and she filed for a change of venue for the trial, according to online court documents.

Sixth District Judge Paul Miller explained the nature of each of the accounts to Williams, and the factual basis of them before asking her for a plea to each charge.

Williams then slowly replied “guilty” to each count after being reminded of the constitutional rights she would waive.

Williams will be sentenced Dec. 21 based on the agreement, at which time the decision will be made whether she will serve an additional five-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter or will be able to serve the time during her other sentences.

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