Yesterday (May 23), Comptroller Brad Lander announced that New York City would pay $7 million to a former Wu-Tang Clan studio worker who spent 23 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit.
Williams, now 51, was exonerated in July 2021 for the 1996 shooting of Shdell Lewis outside a Staten Island public housing complex.
Although the 51-year-old has been on parole since 2019, after being exonerated, he filed a notice of claim allowing him to sue the city. According to sources, the comptroller’s office can resolve issues like these without a court proceeding. A similar action was taken in the 2014 Eric Garner chokehold death case.
Irving Cohen, Williams’ lawyer, spoke about the city’s decision to award his client for their negligence.
“This will assist him in going forward and trying to get back on his feet,” Cohen shared.
Lander seemed pleased with the chance for the city to try and make amends. The comptroller was happy to be “able to move quickly to a fair and early resolution of this claim.”
Williams was tied to the 1996 crime after a Wu-Tang baseball hat was left at the scene of the shooting. Williams formerly worked at the hip hop group’s Staten Island studio. The hat was never tested for DNA evidence and testimony relied heavily on eyewitnesses.
Reports say that police began a pursuit of the shooter and that their original description of the suspect did not match Williams. Cohen also stated that there’s no telling how many local fans would have had a Wu-Tang hat or other merchandise of the multi-platinum group at the time.
No evidence linking the former studio worker to the crime was ever found. Williams appealed his conviction for years before Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon’s office took a look at his case. Ghostface Killah showed support and was present by Williams’ side outside of a courthouse when the decision was made.
While incarcerated, the now 51-year-old earned his associate’s degree and intends to help others who have been wrongfully convicted.