Trucker Sentenced to 34 Years on Multiple Counts
Tyrone Williams was sentenced this week to 34 years incarceration after a federal appeals judge overturned several life sentences he previously received. The life sentences were issued by a lower court in respect of the 19 deaths of illegal immigrants being smuggled in his truck. Almost perversely, the new sentence is close to the longest sentence he had previously received because the appellate court ruled another charge which he had already been indicted on had the sentence increased.
The incident occurred in May 2003, as the illegal immigrants were smuggled from the border zone town of Harlingen to Houston. Williams heard the illegal immigrants begging to be let out of the trailer after it had become unbearably hot. Despite the screams of the occupants, Williams refused to let them out and this led directly to the deaths of nineteen people after the trailer temperature soared to 173 degrees Fahrenheit and he refused to turn on the air conditioning in the trailer. The dead included a 5 year old child.
Williams in tears before US District Judge Rosenthal claimed he was not capable of performing the criminal and inhumane actions that the prosecution had attributed to him. Williams, now 39 years old, also stated that “I live with regret every day of my life,” and that if he had realized the immigrants inside his trailer had been in trouble he would have freed them.
Williams’ attorney, Craig Washington argued that his client was being unfairly punished compared to others involved in the people smuggling operation. In addition, blame for the deaths should have been more fairly apportioned between those who conspired in smuggling the illegal immigrants and for overloading the trailer in the first instance. Washington also argued that Williams should not be sentenced to life terms, but instead should face 11 years which was still in excess of what sentencing guidelines called for.
Williams was convicted on 58 counts of transporting illegal immigrants, conspiracy and harboring and he faced 19 death sentences for the incident. The 5th District Court of Appeals ruled he could not face the death penalty in this case due to technicalities in prosecuting other counts which were not eligible crimes for the ultimate sentence. Instead, a jury trial resulted in Williams being sentenced to life imprisonment in 2007.
After dismissing the life sentences, Judge Rosenthal sentenced Williams to 20 years for his transporting charges and 34 years for conspiracy counts. The prosecutors had previously dismissed the harboring charges, and all the sentences are set to run concurrently.