Former Woodlake officer guilty of battery

By Reggie Ellis

Jurors convicted a former Woodlake police officer of taking advantage of several women while on duty.

Richard Williams, 42, was found guilty last week on four charges including misdemeanor battery and false imprisonment. He was facing felony counts of false imprisonment and sexual assault, but the jury reduced those to misdemeanor charges of false imprisonment and battery, said Robert Dempsie, a supervising deputy district attorney.

If he had been convicted of felony sexual assault, Dempsie said Williams would have had to register as a sex offender for life. Dempsie said the difference between assault and the lesser charge of battery is whether or not the defendant actually touched the victims.

Williams faces up to a year in jail and fines up to $2,000 at sentencing hearing on Oct. 19.

The charges are a result of three separate instances in 2004 involving the search of two women during stops and another at her home during an investigation, all while he was on duty.

Two women claimed the officer made them remove parts of their clothing so that he could check for possibly hidden drugs. Another claimed the officer strip-searched her at her home. Dempsie said two of the women had filed civil suits against the officer and the City of Woodlake, including another woman who did not file any criminal charges against the officer.

Williams was terminated by the Woodlake Police Department on Aug. 23, 2004 following the allegations. Williams worked for the department less than one year.

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