Drunk Driver Heading to Prison After Killing Christmas Shopping Grandmother


An assistant prosecutor said, a man with a past of intoxicated driving is a “continuing threat’’ who warrants a long prison sentence for a crash in December that killed a Christmas Shopping grandmother.

A grandmother of seven was Christmas shopping when she was involved in a car accident caused by James Michael Williams who had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit. He drove through a flashing red light on the Northeast Side, killing 63-year-old grandmother, Judith Besemer.

“The defendant knew he was a continuing threat to the public, that he was a danger to the community, and then he drove in intentional indifference to the safety to the community,’’ said Alex Grimes, Kent County Assistant Prosecutor to a packed courtroom on Tuesday.

In August Williams pleaded guilty to a crash at East Beltline Avenue at Knapp Street NE that cause a death, while driving under the influence. The crash is considered a felony and carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Grimes called the sentencing guidelines “wholly inadequate,” which are a minimum term of 2½ to 4½ years.

Paul Sullivan, Kent County Circuit Court Judge agreed with Grimes. He stated Williams prior drunk driving convictions and his high blood alcohol level would not be ignored and he sentenced him between 7 to 15 years in prison.

“When I leave here today, I’m going to leave here comfortable that under all the facts and circumstances as I understand them, it is an appropriate sentence,’’ said Sullivan.

Prior to William’s sentencing the victim’s son addressed him and explained how the death of

“I would like Mr. Williams to know that the lying, the deceitfulness and not taking responsibility for his actions ends today,’’ said Justin Besemer with tears in his eyes. “Maybe we can stop another family from going through the devastation that my family has endured and maybe save some lives while we’re at it.’’

Keary Sawyer, Williams’ defense attorney read a letter expressing his client’s remorse on his behalf.

“I accept full responsibility for this tragedy and will continue to live with its realization every day for the rest of my life,’’ read Sawyer. “I’m not presenting any excuse nor blaming anyone else; I just wanted to tell you personally that I’m very, very sorry.’’

Williams, 51, had a history of driving under the influence. He had convictions in 1989 and 1995, he was cited 2010, and was also involved in another accident in March of 2016, while driving with a revoked license.

Besemer’s car was struck when Williams ran a flashing red light on Knap Street NE, his 2008 Cadillac, Besemer’s car was northbound on East Beltline Avenue.

The crash happened at the intersection near Knapp’s Corner shopping center around 12:45 a.m., both Besemer and Williams lived in the area. Besemer’s was only three miles away from her home.

Court records show Williams looked drunk and that he told police he had been consuming alcohol. The sobriety tests done on the scene were failed by Williams, his results showed he had a blood alcohol level of .22 percent on the first test and .23 percent on a second test

Williams had been free on a $50,000 bond. On January 17, a warrant was authorized charging Williams with OUIL causing death, which is a felony punishable with up to a 15-year prison sentence.


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