Trial juror believed real threat remained
MAYVILLE – It took a Chautauqua County jury just over an hour Friday to determine Nushawn Williams would pose a threat to society if released from civil confinement.
The former Jamestown resident is believed to have knowingly infected at least a dozen women with HIV in the 1990s before pleading guilty to statutory rape and reckless endangerment. Williams completed a 12-year sentence in 2010, but has remained in custody under state law.
The 12-person jury decided Williams, who now goes by the name Shyteek John-son, has a mental abnormality that requires treatment or strict supervision.
“Basically it came down to all the comments he made while in jail,” said Silver Creek resident Bob Edwards, a juror in the two-week civil confinement trial. “They had so many witnesses from the inside, including correctional officers, come in and testify that he was going to ‘spread the love’ once he got out. That was the phrase we kept hearing.”
Edwards said three of Williams’ victims took the stand during the trial, which was closed to the public. One of the women, he said, provided powerful testimony for the jury.
“She just held it in for so long and didn’t tell anyone about what had happened to her,” Edwards said. “She never told anyone her story because she didn’t want the attention.”
“I think the state had so much evidence that proved the threat,” he said.
Williams’ attorney, John Nuchereno, claimed in a pre-trial hearing that Williams was HIV-free, and as a result was never a danger. Nuchereno said a sample of Williams’ blood was tested using an electron microscope by Gregory Hendricks, a cell biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. No evidence of the virus was found, Hendricks concluded.
The state Attorney General’s Office unsuccessfully attempted to conduct a blood sample of their own.
The jury, however, didn’t buy that Williams never had HIV.
“It was strongly proved, in my opinion, that he was HIV positive and has AIDS,” Edwards said. “It was proved by the doctors who showed us what his viral loads looked liked.”
As for the electron microscope testing, Edwards said, “We were told that they kept testing the blood until they got the negative result. The state had the guy on the stand to discuss how he got the results, and we felt there was some issues there.”
Edwards noted Nuchereno’s 2 1/2 hour closing argument Friday was “really good and interesting to hear,” but was not enough to sway the jury.
“We ultimately just could not believe a lot of (the defense experts’) testimony,” he said. “They brought in some people during the trial that said someone could not transfer HIV to another person. We just couldn’t believe a lot of it.”
Wendy Whiting and Joseph Muia Jr. of the Attorney General’s Office represented New York state. A hearing will be held shortly to determine what level of treatment Williams will receive.
Nuchereno could not be reached for comment Monday.