For the second time in recent days, former Attica inmate George Williams has been overwhelmed with emotions in response to support he has received as the victim of a severe beating by three now-former state prison corrections officers.
He wept a week ago when told by the Wyoming County District Attorney’s Office that the three suspended officers would plead guilty to misdemeanor official misconduct and resign from their jobs.
A few days later, he was again overcome by emotions when he received news that an online effort had started to raise money for him to attend barber school, a goal he had mentioned last week in news accounts of the court case.
The drive was initiated by former Attica resident Don Huber, who wanted Williams to know residents in the tiny village where the maximum-security prison is located are appalled by the abuse he suffered. “I know the majority of people in and around the Attica community were deeply upset by the treatment Mr. Williams received, and I thought it would be great to show him that the people not only in the community – but everywhere – were equally disgusted and stand firmly against that,” said Huber, 27, a member of the Army serving in Fort Riley, Kan.
Soon after setting up the account to raise money for Williams, Donations started coming in, Huber said, and as of Thursday, more than $2,800 had been raised without any publicity.
The tuition cost for attending barber school ranges from $5,000 to $15,000, and Huber said he has settled on a goal of $10,000. “When we reach that goal or when contributions stop coming in, we’ll sign the account over to him,” Huber said.
During a phone conversation with Williams, Huber said the Brunswick, N.J., man told him that words were insufficient to express his gratitude. “He must have said, ‘Thank you,’ 20 times to me,” Huber said. In the short narrative Huber posted on the GoFundMe website, Huber wrote some of Williams’ direct reactions to the fundraising effort:
“Words don’t even come close. … I can’t believe this, it’s historic, it’s amazing. I don’t know what. I wish I could say exactly how overcome I am, but please, please tell everyone thank you for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Huber also recalled how he told Williams he hoped his story would spark a greater reform for others. Williams responded:
“It feels great to be heard, and although I wish it hadn’t happened, if I have to be the sacrificial lamb that makes it so nobody else has to go through something like that, then that is exactly what I hope to be.”
The former corrections officers decided that rather than face a trial on felony charges of gang assault in the Aug. 9, 2011, attack in Attica Correctional Facility, they would be better off taking the plea deal last week in Wyoming County Court. The three were spared time behind bars but were required to lead law-abiding lives for one year or face being resentenced, with the possibility of up to a year in jail.
Williams has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Buffalo accusing the former officers of breaking his shoulder, both ankles and an eye socket. The lawsuit alleges that Keith Swack, Matthew Rademacher and Sean Warner attacked Williams after mistakenly blaming him for yelling a crude insult at a corrections officer earlier in the day. Eric Hibsch, who still works as a state corrections officer, also is a defendant in the lawsuit.
Williams had been sentenced to prison for nonviolent jewelry thefts.
Huber, who served in Afghanistan and works in aviation at Fort Riley, says his goal when he leaves the Army in two years is to complete his college education and attend law school so that he can help people who might not get a fair deal in the legal system.
“I would love to work for people who really don’t have a voice,” Huber said. “Normally when I try to do things for other people, I try to remain anonymous, but we wanted to publicize how to make donations.”
To make a donation, visit the GoFundMe page for Williams: http://www.gofundme.com/nlbhn0.