A Circuit Court judge handed down the maximum punishment for a gruesome murder in which the victim was bludgeoned with a hammer, dismembered and disposed of in the trash -- but questions swirl about the fate of another man who has also been implicated in the homicide and is currently free.
Joshua Williams was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole plus 30 years for his role in the 2010 death of 24-year-old Jamil Khan, William's partner in a marijuana-growing operation in Makakilo.
Williams was convicted in 2011 of second-degree murder, but he has always maintained he acted in self-defense and was an accomplice not the killer.
"I am so truly, deeply sorry for their loss. I never intended for this to happen. I had no ill will toward Jamil. I witnessed this. This wasn't premeditated. If there was anything I could take back, it would be that night," said Williams, addressing Judge Karen Ahn just prior to the sentencing.
"I was truly desperate. I was going to be killed. I did not want to die. I merely defended myself, but even in that -- I did not kill their son. It wasn't me," Williams said.
29-year-old Williams insists it was another associate, Michael Connolly, who beat Khan to death with a hammer. Despite his pleas, Circuit Court Judge Karen Ahn described Williams as a dangerous man.
"He who can dispose of someone as he has -- at the least helped to kill, as well as burn the victim's car as part of the cover up is capable of committing other violent crimes against society," Judge Ahn said.
"The conduct in this case, I think, was egregious. The court finds that under all of the relevant circumstances, the defendant -- who admitted that he not only at the least assisted in the merciless killing of another human being, but also that he sawed the victim into parts in order to cover up conduct -- is dangerous to the community," said Judge Ahn.
Khan's family members packed into the courtroom Friday morning. His mother, Sheila Khan, quietly sobbed as prosecutors described his grisly murder in the state's request for consecutive sentencing.
Deputy Prosecutor Kristine Yoo said Williams' sentencing needed to reflect the seriousness of his offenses, citing how Williams confessed Jamil Khan begged for his life in the final moments.
Tai Khan, the victim's father, testified in length about the impact of his son's death on the family. Standing next to a poster-sized photo of his son, which he says was taken three days before "the brutal savage taking of his life", Tai Kahn asked the court for justice.
"I stand here today to be the voice of the voice that was silenced. He's not here to speak for himself," Tai Khan said, fighting back tears.
"He was kind, caring, compassionate and so many things that will never be forgotten," described Khan's sister, Tayshiana Khan.
Prosecutors say Khan was killed in a dispute over a marijuana operation. During trial, jurors were told Williams beat Khan with a hammer, sliced his throat, dismembered his body, and dumped it in a city and county trash bin. Williams then drove Khan's car to Waipahu and set it on fire.
Williams' defense attorney, Myles Breiner, argued he acted in self defense after Khan brandished an AK-47 assault rifle. The defense claimed Khan had become radicalized following the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Breiner says Khan had another life. The defense says the victim had fantasies about taking profits from his drug operation and using the money to go to Afghanistan and train to kill Americans.
Breiner says Williams has expressed remorse and taken responsibility for his actions, but another person, Michael Connolly, is accountable in this case and the Khan family is not truly getting justice if he remains free.
Prosecutors dropped all charges against Connolly on January 9, 2012.
Prior to sentencing, Williams' father, Russell Williams, also addressed the court. Reading from a statement, he expressed his sorrow for the Khan's family's loss and asked for forgiveness for his son.
Williams' father plead with the judge not to "throw the book" at his son and asked for minimum sentencing, saying his son should be considered an accomplice.
"The primary person responsible for Khan's death is walking free right now," Russell Williams said.
Following the sentencing, Williams' father says his son's claims should have been taken into consideration.
"If someone raises an AK 47 assault rifle at you, what are you going to do? You're going to try to stop it right? Well that's what my son did. It was the other person in that house who took a hammer and committed the murder. Yes, my son was an accomplice, but there's a difference between doing it and being a part of it," said Russell Williams.
Khan's father says his family is happy with the verdict, but is determined to see Connolly held responsible as well.
"It's been a living nightmare, a hell," Tai Khan said, describing what his family has endured over the past four years. "This means a lot to us to see this very horrible human being put away hopefully for a very long time so that's he's not able to come back and inflict such cruelty on another human being and so much pain and suffering upon society again."
"For us this is 50% closure. I believe this is 50% justice," said Tai Khan. "We'll honor Jamil without ever giving up, we're going to be relentless in our pursuit."
Williams' defense attorney Myles Breiner described his client's sentencing as "a miscarriage of justice".
Breiner says City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro dropped all charges against the real killer, Michael Connolly. two years ago, despite his client's offer to testify against him.
"Unfortunately for the state of Hawai'i and especially unfortunately for the Khan family, the person who was responsible that certainly carries equal weight in responsibility walked out of this courtroom a free man and that lays squarely on the shoulders of Keith Kaneshiro. So when the public thinks about electing Kaneshiro -- keep in mind he let someone who murdered another human being, desecrated their body, disposed of it -- walk out of this courthouse a free man. That wasn't Joshua Williams, that was Mr. Kaneshiro," said Breiner.
Deputy Prosecutor Kristine Yoo says the state doesn't have evidence to charge Connolly, but hasn't closed their case.
"I can't tell you right now that we're out there looking for more evidence today, but it's not a case-- it is a case that is on my desk. It's not a case that is in a storage room somewhere else," Yoo explained. "We want to make sure that we hold all parties responsible and we will, but it will just take some time."
"Today justice was served for the family because they've been waiting a long time for today to have some kind of closure, but yes I do agree that we still -- there is still somebody out there and -- there's still somebody out there," Yoo said.
Breiner says Williams plans to appeal.
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