AIKEN -- Augustus Williams, the crucial eyewitness in the William Lumpkin murder trial, became a free man Thursday.
Circuit Court Judge Gary Clary accepted Mr. Williams' guilty plea on forgery charges and gave him credit for time served in Georgia, releasing the man. The plea was organized only after Mr. Williams was paroled from a Georgia prison after more than two years. He was transferred last month to Aiken to answer the forgery charges.
A crowd of family members greeted Mr. Williams as he walked out of the Aiken County Detention Center late Thursday.
Mr. Williams, 49, was a crucial witness in the February capital murder trial of Mr. Lumpkin, who killed Martinez real estate agent Stan White in September 1996. Defense attorneys pointed the finger at Mr. Williams as the real killer.
A jury convicted Mr. Lumpkin, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison after the attorney publicly admitted killing Mr. White.
During the trial, Mr. Williams testified that he helped Mr. Lumpkin take a body wrapped in a tarp and bound with ropes outside the attorney's office and place it in his car.
When the body was found in the Savannah River, Richmond County sheriff's investigators tracked Mr. Williams down to talk about what happened, and he discussed his involvement.
Mr. Williams was eventually charged with theft and hindering the apprehension of a criminal. A judge gave him probation.
But he was arrested in Aiken County in February 1997 for forging a check. Investigators also found three unserved warrants for similar 1990 forgeries.
Those charges led the Georgia judge to revoke his probation and order an active sentence. He was paroled last month and sent to Aiken County.
Second Circuit Solicitor Barbara Morgan said she couldn't ignore the fact Mr. Williams helped prosecutors in the Lumpkin case. Plus, there was no restitution ordered and paper crimes, unlike violent crimes, don't earn large jail sentences.
"And we felt part of the time he did in Georgia was on our charges," she said.