COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Megan Williams' shocking accusations
initially strained the imagination: Seven white people beat her
with sticks, forced her to eat feces, raped her and taunted her
with racial slurs over several days in a ramshackle trailer in West
But the suspects eventually confessed to their actions and
pleaded guilty. All but one were sent to prison. Now Williams, who
is black, is taking it all back.
Williams lied in 2007 because she wanted to get back at a
boyfriend who had beaten her, her attorney, Byron L. Potts, said
Wednesday at a news conference in his Columbus office.
Williams no longer wants to live a lie, Potts said.
"She told me the only thing not self-inflicted were the bruises
on her face," Potts said.
Williams, 22, who now lives with a caregiver in Columbus, was in
the office with Potts, but she did not appear before reporters.
Potts said she has received several anonymous phone calls from
people threatening her life.
"She is recanting the entire incident. She says it did not
happen, and she's scared," Potts said.
Seven white men and women were convicted in the case, in which
Williams had also said that hot wax was poured on her and that two
of her captors had forced her to drink their urine.
Police said the assaults occurred at a trailer owned by Frankie
Brewster in a rural area of Logan County, about 50 miles from
Charleston, W.Va. Williams was rescued after an anonymous caller
Potts said that Brewster's son, Bobby, was the boyfriend who had
beaten Williams and that she had stabbed herself with a straight
razor to help embellish the story of being tortured.
Prosecutors, who knew about the relationship even during the
case, dismissed Williams' new claim, and lawyers for the defendants
would not discuss their plans. Williams' supporters were cautious
about responding to the statement by a woman whose mother described
her during the 2007 case as "slow."
Potts urged prosecutors in West Virginia to re-evaluate the case
and he said that Williams wants people convicted to be released
Brian Abraham, the former Logan County prosecutor who pursued
the cases, said authorities realized early in the investigation
that they could not rely on statements from Williams, who tended to
embellish and exaggerate details. Instead, he said, the seven
defendants were convicted on their own statements and physical
"If she's going to say that she made it all up, that's
absurd," Abraham said. "This looks like another attempt to
generate more publicity."
Potts said he did not know why the defendants have pleaded
guilty to something they did not do.
He said Williams is aware that she could face legal consequences
for fabricating the story and that he wants to have her
psychologically evaluated. He said Williams told him certain people
were controlling her and influencing her during the case. He did
In a January interview with The Call & Post, a black newspaper
in Cleveland, Williams acknowledged she had been mistreated but
said her mother made her embellish the story for exposure and
financial gain. Williams told the newspaper that she was afraid of
her mother, who knew some of the defendants.
Williams' mother, Carmen Williams, died in June. Potts said he
did not know what role the mother might have had in fabricating the
The assaults occurred in September 2007 at a trailer in a rural
area of Logan County, about 50 miles from Charleston. In an
interview the following month, Williams told The Associated Press
she thought she was going to a party and tagged along with a woman
she barely knew.
Williams said she was held captive for several days and was
tortured, beaten, and forced to eat rat, dog and human feces. She
was also raped by a group of white men and women.
A passer-by heard cries from the shed where she was kept, and
sheriff's deputies responding to an anonymous tip found her hours
later, limping toward the door, her arms outstretched, saying,
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who donated $1,000 to Williams' family as
a Christmas gift, and a group called Black Lawyers for Justice had
urged prosecutors to pursue hate-crime charges.
The lawyers group organized a march on Williams' behalf in
November 2007. Sharpton addressed a rally in Charleston a month
At the time, Abraham said that because Williams had had a
relationship with Bobby Brewster, it would be difficult to prove
that a hate crime occurred. Even so, one of the defendants, Karen
Burton, pleaded guilty to a state hate-crime charge.
In a phone call to the AP on Wednesday, Sharpton said the matter
should be handled delicately, citing "psychological issues" with
"This isn't cut and dried either way," he said. "Right is
right, but I have no idea if tomorrow her story will change back."
Those convicted were Bobby and Frankie Brewster; Danny Combs;
George Messer; Burton; and Burton's daughter Alisha Burton and son
Linnie Burton Jr.
Linnie Burton Jr. was the only defendant not to serve jail time.
He was convicted of a misdemeanor battery charge and given a
six-month suspended sentence.
Lawyers for the seven did not immediately return phone calls
Wednesday or declined to comment. Abraham said none of the seven
"This was a very detailed criminal investigation," he said.
It will be up to the defendants to decide how they will respond
to Williams' statements, said Philip Morrison II, executive
director of the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute.
Morrison questioned whether Williams' actions would be
sufficient to overturn their confessions, saying, "What are they
going to say, 'I didn't really mean that?"'
The AP generally does not identify suspected victims of sexual
assault, but Williams and her mother agreed to release her name.
Carmen Williams had said she wanted people to know what her
daughter had endured.
People who have supported Williams were guarded Wednesday.
"We did have some concerns about what was being done at the
time and how it was carried out by Megan and the family, because of
her mental condition," said the Rev. Audie Murphy, president of
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in
Logan and Boone counties in West Virginia.
"We feel the legal system will handle it accordingly," Murphy
said. "We didn't rush to judgment then, and we're not rushing to
Sharpton has sent a letter to Logan County prosecutor John
Bennett asking him to look into the new claims.
"If Ms. Williams has, in fact, fabricated her story, then I
urge your office to vindicate any wrongfully convicted
individuals," Sharpton wrote.
In 1987, Sharpton helped advise and served as a spokesman for
15-year-old Tawana Brawley, who claimed she had been kidnapped and
raped by a gang of whites that included law enforcement officials.
A grand jury concluded that Brawley, who is black, made up the
Bennett said Wednesday that he would not be able to investigate
the case because he represented one of the seven who were
convicted, but Morrison said that would be for a judge to decide.
Tom Breen reported from Charleston, W.Va. Associated Press
Writer Lawrence Messina in Logan County, W.Va., contributed to this
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)