General Crime

* Sheridan Smith and Willie Williams were sentenced today to life in prison for stabbing a man while robbing another man in Oakland

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Two Oakland men were sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole for their roles in the 2005 stabbing death of a homeless man while robbing another man of $10. Sheridan Smith, 36, and Willie Williams, 49, were convicted on June 9 of first-degree murder and a robbery special circumstance for the death of 39-year-old Vincent Simien at a homeless encampment in the 2500 block of Northgate Avenue in Oakland on May 28, 2005. Smith was also convicted of forcibly raping Simien’s girlfriend, who witnessed the murder.  According to prosecutor Melissa Krum, Smith and Williams walked to the homeless encampment, where they woke up a group of four and began harassing them. She said the two men robbed one man of $10, and then Smith stabbed
Simien in the chest with a cane sword. Krum said Smith then summoned Simien’s girlfriend and took her to an unoccupied side of the homeless encampment, where he raped her. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon, who conducts outreach with the homeless community in Oakland, teared up as he sentenced Smith and Williams and said their crimes were cruel and vicious.    Smith and Williams both claimed today they are innocent. Williams alleged that his attorney, John McDougall, cooperated
with the prosecution in the case and that his due process rights were violated.  “The district attorney and my lawyer want to railroad me,” he said. Williams said he’d previously been wrongly convicted in 1999.  McDougall said that conviction was based on tainted evidence collected by a group of Oakland police officers known as “The Riders” who were later accused of beating and framing suspected drug dealers in West Oakland. Williams was one of 119 residents who won a combined $11 million from the city to resolve allegations of police misconduct. None of the reputed “Riders” officers was convicted of any charges during two lengthy trials.     Williams’ 1999 conviction was eventually dismissed, McDougall said. He said the previous case “was really devastating” to Williams and “contributed to this,” referring to Simien’s stabbing death.    
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