In sentencing Bryce Michael Williams this week for torching a Minneapolis police station last summer following George Floyd’s death, U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz called him a "good person who made a terrible mistake," the StarTribune reported.
As part of the riots following Floyd’s death, Williams entered the police headquarters after a large crowd that he was part of tore down the fence surrounding the building. Williams then ignited a Molotov cocktail, which Davon De-Andre Turner used to start the blaze. Williams then threw a box on top of a fire near the entrance of the headquarters.
Afterwards, Williams put up videos of himself and others rioting on his TikTok account.
A federal grand jury indicted Williams, Turner, Dylan Shakespeare Robinson, and Branden Michael Wolfe together on one count each of conspiracy to commit arson, the StarTribune reported.
Schiltz sentenced Turner to three years in prison, Robinson to four years, and Wolfe to three years and five months. All four must help pay $12 million in restitution for the damage to the police station.
But the judge sentenced the 27-year-old Williams to only two years and three months in federal prison, which is lower than prescribed by federal sentencing guidelines and the lesast time among the four.
Schiltz said he gave the lighter sentence because Williams was unlike most defendants he has encountered at court, saying he has "done everything right" since being arrested, including becoming the first of the four to plead guilty.
Since being charged, Williams said he has held down steady jobs, including working security, stopped drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, and has focused on his faith and being a good father.
Williams also said in court that he felt ashamed of what he did during the riots and that he will never forget "the pain and agony" he caused, pleading before the judge to "please have mercy on me while you sentence me," according to the StarTribune.
Williams had attended college on a basketball scholarship and became the first in his family to graduate, shortly before Floyd's murder, which Williams said "helped me figure out who I am, 100%."
The judge said it was "easy to understand" why Floyd's killing affected Williams so much, but rejected his request for probation, saying his role in the violence deserved a sentence includinig prison time and described him as a leader — "not a follower" — in the violent mob that set fire to the police station.
Schiltz added that Williams had no idea, when he started the blaze, how many people may have been in the police station, including good police officers and those who did not even work in law enforcement.
The judge said he would recommend that Williams, who must surrender to authorities on July 13, serve his time in a federal facility where he could be close to his family.
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