The Edmond Sun

August 24, 2012

Jesse Jackson speaks in support of convicted sex offender on OSU basketball team

Russell Hixson
CNHI News Service

STILLWATER — Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH Coalition had a clear message for supporters of Darrell Williams Thursday night: Don’t give up.

“Keep hope alive,” Jackson said. “Don’t give up on a God who can raise Lazarus from the dead.” The civil rights leader led the stuffed sanctuary of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in chanting: “Set Darrell free,” calling for the crowd to shout it louder and louder.

A motion for a new trial for convicted former Oklahoma State men’s basketball player Darrell Williams was filed at 4:07 p.m. Thursday in Payne County District Court.

The motion came the night before Williams is set to appear in court for sentencing at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Jackson said he met with Williams Thursday afternoon to pray. Jackson said Williams told him he is staying strong and trusting God.

Jackson called for the courts to have justice tempered with mercy when sentencing Williams on Friday afternoon. Williams is set to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. He was convicted in July of two counts of rape by instrumentation and a charge of sexual battery.

He could be sentenced to one to 15 years in prison for each of the rape by instrumentation convictions, and up to 10 years in prison on the sexual battery count.

Jackson said he and Williams’ supporters would be gathering at the Payne County Courthouse at noon Friday to pray.  

Jackson said it would not be a protest or a demonstration but a time for prayer. He asked supporters to be sensitive to the rights of women and the justice system. He asked supporters not to bring protest signs or banners.

Payne County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Kevin Woodward said the sheriff’s department will provide additional security at the courthouse on Friday.

Jackson and Rainbow PUSH Coalition National Field Director Bishop Tavis Grant said they have taken a special interest in the Williams case because they watched him grow up at Chicago’s Dunbar High School and escape its violent streets. Grant called Williams one of Chicago’s bright shining stars.

“God will see Darrell through,” Jackson said. “Tomorrow we are looking for a miracle.”

Grant said he met Williams nearly two years ago after the coalition was contacted by his family. This is unusual as many of the people he advocates have already died violently, said Grant, referring to Trayvon Martin and Chavis Carter. Martin was shot in Florida in February and Carter was fatally shot in the back of a patrol car this month in Jonesboro, Ark.

“But I know Darrell Williams, I prayed with him, counseled with him,” Grant said. “There is no doubt in my mind that in spite of his conviction, Darrell Williams is still innocent.”

He said one does not have to be guilty to be convicted.

Grant was moved to tears as he described his meeting with Williams Thursday afternoon.

“He’s still standing tall and saying he is innocent,” Grant said. He said if anyone deserves a second chance, it is Williams.

Williams’ mother Alice addressed the crowd through tears after Jackson and Grant had spoken.

“He’s come too far to escape the violence in Chicago to have all these allegations on him,” She said. “He don’t deserve it.”

Jackson and Grant held her hand and comforted her as she cried during the forum.

Jackson urged members of the crowd to register to vote so they can be better represented in jury pools — something he sees as a problem in the justice system.

Other members of the Williams family, including the athlete’s sister, Alicia were in attendance.

In one row sat women clad in teal shirts and teal pins. The pins are the national symbol of support for victims of sexual assault.