Charleston County inmate released after life sentence overturned

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Corrections released an inmate who served part of a life sentence without parole after the state supreme court overturned his conviction

On January 2007, Onrae Williams was sentenced to life without parole after a Charleston County jury convicted him of selling $40 worth of crack cocaine to a confidential informant, according to a press release.

"I had to ask the people five times ,'If you sure, this me, you sure?'" Williams said. "They like,'Yeah Mr. Williams pack up you're going all the way.'Once they tell me the fifth time I was out the door."

However, the South Carolina Supreme Court rule that his counsel was ineffective in explaining his sentencing options.

His conviction was overturned and as he was awaiting a new trial at the Charleston County jail he agreed to a plea deal last week that set him free.

"It ain't no life in crime. I wouldn't suggest nobody take the chances especially that I took 11 and a half years ago that wasn't worth it," Williams said.

Following plea negotiations, William pleaded guilty on June 14.

Defense Attorney Mark Peper negotiated a 15-year sentence with credit for time served.

"I was as surprised as he was when he called last night at 11 o' clock and said 'Pep I'm out.' So the first thing I did was check this morning to make sure there weren't any mistakes," Peper said.

Williams was released Monday night having already maxed out his 15-year sentence with the credit he earned.

"Me and my daughter always kept a tight relationship even when I was locked up. We real tight so the only thing that was missing was me being there physically," Williams said.

Williams says it's a blessing from God to be back with his family.

"This is a happy day for the Williams family, and I'm honored to have been able to negotiate his release," Peper said. "He woke up in prison every day for the last 11 years thinking he might eventually die there. But he never stopped believing in our justice system while rehabilitating himself."

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