It’s been a long slog for Princess Williams. She was 20 when she was booked at the Flagler County jail nearly four years ago on an attempted murder and armed robbery charges in the shooting of Carl Saint-Felix on a W-Section street in October 2018. She’d served 1,415 days awaiting her sentence today: 20 years in prison, followed by 10 on probation.
It’s been a long slog for the prosecution, which reached a deal early with Williams to go easier on her in exchange for her cooperation if she served as a state’s witness against her three co-conspirators, who Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark then led to pleas, convictions and prison sentences each in turn: Ringleader Jimaya Baker, 15 years. She was just 19 at the time of the armed robbery. Diovion Smith, four years. Lauryn Darnell, three years.
It’s been a long slog for Perkins, who told the attorneys in the case today–Williams is represented by Steven Robinson–that he didn’t need to hear the evidence all over again, having heard it so many times. He had accepted Williams’s plea in January 2020, but deferred sentencing until all the other cases were resolved. “Quite candidly, I’ve heard most of the evidence previously in the other cases,” the judge told the attorneys. “I certainly can’t quarrel with where you ended up in that regard.”
All that pales compared to what a slog it’s been, what a slog every day continue and will continue to be, for Carl Saint-Felix, 19 at the time of the shooting, when he was disabled and robbed of any sense of a normal life since, as his mother told the court and Williams today, speaking by zoom. He cannot walk. He cannot talk. She has to tend to his every need.
“I wish when she gets out she don’t put no family me through this, because I’ve been through a lot,” Saint-Felix’s mother said (English is not her first language). Her son, she said, has not improved since she last addressed the court other than “hanging in there.”
Clark had consulted with Saint-Felix’s mother on the plea deal, and again asked her today if she was in agreement with the terms. “You’re doing a good job, you know what you’re doing, I told you I’m agreeing with whatever you decide,” the mother said.
Williams still got the steepest sentence because it was she who carried the gun and fired the bullet that wounded and disabled Saint-Felix. Williams’s decision to cooperate reduced her exposure initially from a potential range of a mandatory 25 years to life in prison, then, following an amended charge today, to a mandatory 20 years. She does not get gain time, or early release after serving 85 percent of her sentence. On the other hand, she enters the prison system with well over that equivalent already served, and served at the jail, where she could stay in close and regular contact with family.
Her mother and father were in the courtroom today–the only spectators in the courtroom, other than an assistant to Robinson. They both addressed the court–and purposefully addressed Saint-Felix’s mother, apologizing to her repeatedly.
“I just would like to say that I apologize for for my daughter’s action,” Williams’s mother said, speaking mother to mother. “I don’t know what she was going through that night or what happened. But I pray for you every night. I pray for my family. I know we’ve been through a lot. This is hard on us. We both are losing. You know, families are torn apart because of these kids’ action. They don’t think before they do, they just do it. I ask for your forgiveness for my daughter and for me also. Because sometimes I feel like I failed as a parent. But I know I did the best that I could do under the circumstances. You know once they get grown, they do what they want to do. You know and I really do apologize to you and hope that one day you’ll be able to forgive her.”
Then Williams’s father then spoke: “As Princess’s father I can’t imagine what you’re going through. It’s very difficult. I do keep your son and yourself and your whole family in my prayers. The biggest thing is as a parent, we do the best that we can. We put forth the best effort and I know you have as well as I have as a mother. But my biggest thing is, I thank you for your forgiveness as far as the sentencing is concerned and the agreement up there, because it could have been greater of course if not. I’m just hoping that my daughter will take full accountability and take responsibility and become a better person once all this is over. I thank the courts as well for your leniency and your patience. I love my daughter greatly. I thank [Saint-Felix’s mother] as well. But hopefully after all this is done she will get out and be more productive in society and do better.”
Williams herself, in the orange jail garb she has worn for the past three years and 11 months, listened to the statements from a chair in front of the defendant’s table, then stood at the podium next to Robinson to hear Perkins’s sentence and the explanations of what took place until then, and what she will be responsible for during the 10 years of probation following prison: no contact with Saint-Felix, no contact with any of her co-conspirators, holding a full-time job or going to school, or both, completing certain classes.
She did not address the court. She did not address Saint-Felix’s mother. The terms of probation do not include a letter of apology. The case, and the damage, was done.