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Home detention ordered for airman who set police car on fire during Salt Lake riot

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge granted mercy to a man who set fire to a Salt Lake police car during a downtown riot on May 30, 2020.

Larry Williams, 24, walked out of the federal courthouse after sentencing on Friday with an order to serve two years of supervised home detention, when he could have been sentenced to several years in prison.

Williams pleaded guilty on June 15 to a federal charge of civil disorder.

He was the last of five men who were charged on that day for the same type of crime, with helping flip a police car over or setting it on fire during a protest that turned violent. The other four all were sentenced to a year or more behind bars.

Williams' attorney, Scott Williams, who is not related to Larry Williams, said he believes it was a fair sentence.

"The impact that it's had on his life forever, in a whole variety of ways, are consequences that are as severe as anyone would really need to suffer," Williams said.

In a pre-sentence filing, the attorney said nothing in Williams' behavior before or after the incident suggests that he would commit a crime like this again. The document claims that Williams was spontaneously involved in the crime due to his passion, the fervor of others around him, and the historical treatment of his race, including the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

Before the charges, Larry Williams was an airman first class at Hill Air Force Base. He was identified through a gas mask he received from training and was wearing when he took a combustible fabric and threw it onto the overturned patrol car, setting it on fire.

Since being charged, he has lost his position in the military and cannot serve in the military again.

In court, Williams gave an emotional plea for forgiveness, saying, "I would absolutely do anything to take that day back. That day, I made a mistake. I failed. I failed myself. I failed my family. I failed this country. I failed the civilians that were around, the police officers and the other military members. I made a terrible mistake. It's not excusable. I broke the law and I can't under or overstate that – I broke the law."

U.S. District Judge David Barlow called his actions "very serious and dangerous," but said Williams' spotless record, his service to his country, and his sorrow all played a role in deciding against any prison time.

"I don't believe it would help him to be incarcerated," Barlow said. "No evidence of premeditation, never used a weapon or encouraged others to riot. I don't believe you pose any other threats to the public. I would be shocked if you commit another crime."

Under the two-year home detention, Williams is only allowed to leave his home for work, medical or religious reasons. Williams will also be required to pay $2,500 in restitution as part of his sentence.

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Dan Rascon
Emily Ashcraft joined as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.


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