Rampage Truck Driver Pleads Not Guilty To All Charges After Killing Motoristby Jana Ritter - Published: 7/13/2016
Things have gone from bad to worse for the truck driver arrested last Saturday after a driving rampage that killed a motorist, injured two others and damaged several vehicles in his path.
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On Wednesday, 57 year-old Daniel Burnam Williams appeared in a New Jersey courtroom wearing handcuffs and a neck brace with cuts all over his face. Not only is he facing charges of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, second-degree vehicular homicide and second-degree reckless aggravated assault, prosecutors also informed the court of Williams' extensive record of 55 prior arrests in California alone. According to Union County Assistant Prosecutor, Shawn Barnes, Williams’ record includes at least eight felony convictions and numerous arrests for crimes involving drugs, alcohol and domestic violence. Barnes added that Williams also has three arrests for providing false identification and has used 10 different aliases and eight separate social security numbers. Not to mention, he has a whole other arrest record from his other home state of Colorado.
When Barnes got into the charges at hand, he presented the judge with the timeline of events that started shortly after midnight on Saturday, July 9. "The defendant operated a Freightliner truck recklessly on the streets Elizabeth for 3½ miles," Barnes said. "He was driving in a deliberately evasive manner to avoid police cars that were positioned to stop him." He continued to allege that Williams barreled through a barricade, then sped down several streets and rammed into a car, immediately killing the driver identified as 24 year-old Jeffrey Oakley of Elizabeth, NJ. Barnes continued to describe the chain of events until police were finally able to remove Williams from his vehicle. Barnes told the court that police had detected a strong odor of alcohol when they removed him from the vehicle.
Judge Brenda Coppola Cuba heard the charges and proceeded to direct questions at Williams himself, which he answered only by nodding his head from behind the glass window. "Can you answer?" Cuba finally asked him. Williams then answered into the microphone, "Yes, judge."
Williams' court appointed attorney, John Johnson of the Public Defender's Office, entered not guilty pleas to all the charges. It is uncertain as to how he will approach the difficult job of defending his client. Johnson also requested Williams' bail be reduced from $2 million to $500,000, arguing that the injuries he suffered from the incident render him an unlikely flight risk. Although police had fired shots at Williams during the chase and earlier reports said he was struck once, there was no indication of any gunshot wounds when he appeared in court. Barnes immediately opposed the bail reduction, reminding the judge of Williams’ extensive arrest record and history of aliases. Cuba sided with the prosecutor and kept Williams' bail at $2 million.