Four months ago Christopher Williams, 22, was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse after allegedly picking up a 4-year-old boy and slamming him to the ground. The boy had been annoying Williams by opening and shutting a door. The incident took place in Palm Coast’s E-Section. The child was taken to a hospital in Gainesville in critical condition. He survived.
Williams, his attorney—Public Defender Regina Nunnally—said this morning in court, “wants to go home, he’s tired of being in jail.”
He couldn’t bond out if he wanted to: his bond was revoked in mid-January. His first-degree felony charge exposes him to up to 30 years in prison, if he is found guilty. But he’s not about to go to trial. This afternoon, based on at least two medical reports, Circuit Judge Matthew Foxman found him incompetent to stand trial and ordered him committed to a state hospital for treatment, so his case can resume subsequently.
“I’m not inclined to make a final determination,” Foxman said. “He needs to go to the state hospital to be restored to an ability where he can be declared competent to stand trial.”
Foxman then had a brief conversation with Williams, who was shackled and slumped in a chair, wearing the green-and-white, striped prison garb. The judge had to draw him out. He mumbled at first, and answered in monosyllables, and when asked where he was from, he kept repeating “North Carolina.” But when the judge said it was a shame he hadn’t graduated high school, Williams came alive, saying that’s why he wanted to leave jail—to go back to school. “I love school. School makes you smart. It makes me a better person than I am today,” Williams said. “I learned a lot in jail. It taught me a lot.”
His mother was in the back of the room. He said she was sick, and he wanted to get out of jail to take care of her. He mentioned having a child of his own, in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. (The victim of the alleged assault was not his child, but the son of the woman with whom he has a child in common. The victim, too, was taken away from his ex-girlfriend and placed in foster care, in DCF’s custody, as were several other children his ex-girlfriend gave birth to, from other men.)
“Look,” Williams said, pleading for himself, “these people getting out of jail, right now, acting up, doing the same darn thing, just get out of jail, go right back, get out again. I’m stuck in jail. I’ve been in jail seven months, I learned my lesson.” He asked for probation, promising to get a job and stay out of trouble. “Give me probation, give me anything, I’m not going to come back.”
“Well, as tempting as that offer is, Mr. Williams, I think we’re going to have to see each other again,” Foxman said. “I like having you in the room. Let’s put it that way.”
“Well, if you let me out can I be in the room?”
The judge laughed earnestly, then explained to him the process ahead, describing his attorney as one of his silver linings. “This is not a negative event,” Foxman told him, “the case could still, be resolved at some point. It’s just not procedurally there, because I need you in a healthier spot.” Then he added: “I enjoy seeing you in my courtroom, so I look forward to seeing you again.”
It was the second competency hearing of the day. The first went very differently, even though the outcome was the same: in the first, involving a man shooting his common-law wife in the Mondex in 2014, the assistant state attorney fought hard to have him declared competent to proceed with trial. She had medical testimonies to buttress her case. But Foxman in that case, too, ordered the man back to a state hospital. In both cases, however, Foxman made clear that his intention was not to warehouse the men in hospitals, but to get them mended and ready for trial.