Arizona inmate’s release held up by molestation allegation

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona inmate whose life sentence for a murder conviction was commuted nearly two months ago by Gov. Doug Ducey remains incarcerated as authorities examine an allegation that he molested a girl during a 1989 prison visit.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports the molestation allegation against Doyle Williams was raised in late December by the girl’s mother.

An attorney who represents Williams, 70, said authorities concluded at the time that the allegation was unfounded.

The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency said it was not previously aware of the allegation because there was no record of them after the prison investigated and found no evidence of wrongdoing. The Capitol Times obtained the documents through a public records request.

Kathryn Blades, the board’s executive director, said it didn’t have those records during the first two phases of the commutation hearings and they weren’t included in the information given to the Republican governor.

Blades said after the board received them, it began working with the department to review the legitimacy of the claim.

Records show the mother called the prison to report the incident on March 25, 1989. She also provided records showing Williams voluntarily reported the incident to prison staff an hour before she called.

Lindsay Herf, a lawyer with the Arizona Justice Project, which represents Williams, said in the group’s investigation of the allegation, all of those interviewed expressed a high degree of skepticism.

The board was expected to present its findings at a meeting Tuesday but is instead delaying until it and the Justice Project has presented the findings of its investigation.

The board unanimously recommended that Ducey commute Williams’ sentence in July, citing his support system, desire to serve his community and near-spotless prison record.

Williams, who has been in prison for 50 years, has maintained his innocence since he was arrested.

Williams was driving a truck belonging to the murder victim, 72-year-old Onnie Hightower, in 1969 when police stopped him for speeding. Police saw alcoholic beverages in the vehicle and arrested Williams and his passenger, 19-year-old Herbert Chambers, for unlawfully possessing liquor as minors.

Twelve hours later, a neighbor found Hightower’s body.

Chambers pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was released from prison after serving a few years, but Williams maintained his innocence.

This is the ninth commutation Ducey has granted since he took office in 2015; eight others were all for prisoners on their deathbeds.

One young man, Myreon Hollingsworth, who was at the scene of a murder when he was 15, received a commutation without Ducey’s signature because the board voted unanimously and Ducey failed to act on it within 90 days.

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