A man who was initially charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide for firing a gunshot during a fight with his girlfriend in January pleaded guilty Friday to three misdemeanors, after a prosecutor said that new bullet trajectory calculations showed that he wasn’t firing the gun at her.
The charge against Jonathan C. Williams, 28, of Madison, was reduced two weeks ago to first-degree reckless endangerment, but again on Friday Assistant District Attorney Allison Cogbill reduced Williams’ charges to three misdemeanors, to which Williams pleaded guilty.
On May 16, a plea agreement in which Williams was to plead guilty to the reckless endangerment charge had sought to place him into the Dane County First Offenders Program, but Circuit Judge Ellen Berz balked at that agreement, calling a first offenders outcome inappropriate for the incident.
This time, the charges were reduced to negligent handling of a weapon, criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct with a dangerous weapon, all as an act of domestic abuse. The agreement, which Berz went along with, called for Williams to be sentenced to a jail sentence that was deemed served by the time Williams has spent in jail since his arrest in January, along with two years of probation.
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“It’s clear now that the defendant shot at a wall,” Cogbill said, far from where the woman was at the time the shot was fired. Investigators have also established that the woman was holding a knife at the time, but did not charge her with a crime because she was too far from Williams to pose a threat to him with the knife. “We still believe the defendant was the aggressor, who also had a firearm,” Cogbill said.
A criminal complaint states that the couple fought on Jan. 2 at their apartment in the 3800 block of School Road on Madison’s North Side. The woman was trying to end their relationship and had told Williams to leave, but he was refusing. A verbal argument turned into a physical fight in which Williams, who said he always carried a gun, fired a shot that struck a wall.
After that, the complaint states, they struggled over the gun, and the woman managed to push Williams back and run from the apartment. Williams was later arrested at his father’s home in Milwaukee. Berz questioned Williams about why he had a gun and why he needed one in a place like Madison, which doesn’t see the level of violence in places like Chicago and Milwaukee. Williams responded that it was his right, so that he could protect himself.
“What people fail to understand,” Berz said, “is just because you may have a right to carry a firearm doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do or the smart thing to do. The probability that you or someone else will be severely injured or killed in a situation that would otherwise be talked out increases dramatically by your possession of a firearm.”
Because Williams was convicted of misdemeanors that involved acts of domestic violence, he will no longer be able to possess a gun under federal law, Berz said.