It was an elaborate — if underplanned — plot to inform the public of a government conspiracy to take away citizens’ rights to serve as jurors.
That’s what federal inmate Marshall Dewayne Williams said caused him to hold former state lawmaker Steve Nunn hostage at the Fayette County Detention Center for more than an hour earlier this month. Williams detailed his claim in a handwritten letter to the Herald-Leader.
The hostage case is the latest attention-getting maneuver by Williams, who has caused headaches for corrections officers and court personnel in Kentucky and Tennessee, where he was previously held.
Williams is serving a 109-year sentence at the United States Penitentiary Big Sandy in Inez for a 1984 pipe-bomb killing in Texas, a sentence for which he should have been paroled by now, he has claimed. He stays at the Fayette County Detention Center when making court appearances.
He has sought to bring attention to his plight by contesting his incarceration, alleging misconduct by prison officials and threatening public officials. His alleged stunts — which include making bomb threats, mailing letters coated in fake anthrax and taking hostages — are carried out from behind bars.
Jail records released Friday give new details about the June 6 hostage case involving Nunn, who is accused in the Sept. 11, 2009, shooting death of Amanda Ross outside her home in downtown Lexington.
In exchange for Nunn’s safety, Williams had a series of demands, “including that he would surrender to the county sheriff in front of the cameras for the local ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates” to explain the “federal conspiracy against him.”
He ranted about “being unlawfully imprisoned by the federal government for 17 years,” reports said.
Williams took Nunn hostage at 12:41 p.m. on June 6. According to incident reports filed by corrections officers, Williams used a broken broom handle to wedge shut the door to a day room — a common area with tables, bathrooms and a TV that serves eight prisoner cells. He then used either a stool or a book to prop open the door to Nunn’s cell so it couldn’t be closed remotely, according to the reports.
A note taped to the door window said “Bomb on Door,” Williams said in his letter to the newspaper. Corrections officers saw the purported bomb — a soda bottle filled with clear liquid connected by a string to the door. (The clear liquid was water.)
Officers reported that Nunn was lying on his bunk during the standoff. His hands were tied together with strips of torn fabric, although officers reported seeing Nunn free his hands on his own and get up and walk around the cell during the standoff.
Williams, 48, swung the handle of a dust mop at officers who were trying to dislodge the broom handle keeping the door shut.
An officer fired several rounds of “pepper balls” at Williams, who retreated into Nunn’s cell. They then dislodged the broom handle by knocking it out of the way with a riot baton.
They surrounded Williams in Nunn’s cell.
“Inmate Williams then fell to the ground and advised that he ‘gives up,’” a report said.
Officers used a stun-shield — a type of shield that delivers an electric shock — and struck him in the back of the leg when he refused to allow them to handcuff him, a report said.
When frisking him, officers found that he had fashioned a fake shank out of an inside-out potato chip bag.
Nunn and Williams were uninjured, according to jail documents. However, in his letter, Williams said corrections officers punished him by not giving him water for three days and by shocking him with a stun gun “until I defecated.”
Sgt. Jennifer Taylor, a spokeswoman at the jail, said she was not aware of any such actions. She said prisoners are never denied food or water as punishment.
Nunn did not want to press charges.
In his letter, Williams also claimed that he had recently made a bomb threat to the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse in Lexington. Jennifer Miller, a spokeswoman for the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed that there had been a bomb threat and said it was under investigation.
Despite recent cases in which he allegedly assaulted a U.S. Secret Service Agent and mailed hoax bomb threats and anthrax letters to government officials, Williams has not gone before a jury as a result of the charges. Criminal charges in those cases have been dismissed, which Williams said is “to prevent me from reaching the citizen jury.”
In his letter to the newspaper, he demanded “that I be prosecuted for any wrongdoing and demand that the citizens shall rule and have the right to decide the law and facts on Jury Duty.”
According to an April indictment, while Williams was at Big Sandy penitentiary in 2009, he mailed packages to numerous Kentucky congressmen, Gov. Steve Beshear and federal judges that falsely claimed to contain anthrax, smallpox or explosives.
At the request of a special prosecutor, U.S. District Judge Karl Forester dismissed the indictment against Williams on June 1.
Williams provided an email message to the Herald-Leader written by the prosecutor, West Virginia Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Gregory McVey and sent to Williams’ court-appointed attorney, Steve Milner of Lexington, explaining why McVey thought the case should be dismissed.
“I have discussed the case further with my supervisors and we have decided that it would be a waste of resources — both personal and financial — to proceed with the case,” the email message said.
A spokesman for McVey’s office said he had no information about why the case was dismissed.
On April 19, at the request of Robert McBride, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Forester also dismissed a 2010 indictment against Williams for possessing a weapon called a shank at Big Sandy on Aug. 20, 2009, and assaulting a U.S. Secret Service agent, according to the indictment.
Federal court documents don’t give a reason the prosecutor asked that the 2010 case be dismissed. Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said U.S. Department of Justice rules prohibit him from discussing the reasons if they are not expressed in court documents.