UPDATE: Donnie Williams is now in custody per Milwaukee County jail records. Court records listed a “return on warrant” on June 26.
Donnie Williams, who fled during his jury trial for attempting to murder a Milwaukee police officer, was freed by a Milwaukee County Judge on a SIGNATURE BOND despite the seriousness of the charges.
Williams was freed on a signature bond in February 2023. On June 22, 2023, he did not show up for court for his jury trial, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was placed back into custody on June 24, 2023, according to jail records.
On June 22, 2023, Williams was convicted by a jury, in absentia, of shooting at a Milwaukee police officer, felon in possession of a firearm, and other charges. Court records show officials believe he cut off his GPS bracelet.
WRN has obtained internal Milwaukee Police documents alerting law enforcement of the search for Williams and the threat he posed. According to one document, Williams was wearing body armor when he shot at officers.
Local law enforcement agencies were on high alert for Donnie Williams. An officer safety alert was issued to protect police throughout the area.
Court records show the judge, Michael Hanrahan, reduced bail to a signature bond from $500,000 cash due to a speedy trial request. The Milwaukee County court backlogs, which arose in part due to officials’ COVID policy decisions to restrict jury trials and due to staffing shortages, have repeatedly caused speedy trial violations in Milwaukee County.
Fox 6 reported that Williams was convicted by a jury but never bothered to tell the public that he was convicted in ABSENTIA because he had already fled. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that he fled and was tried in absentia, losing his “$100,000 bond,” without reporting that it was a SIGNATURE bond.
A signature bond means that the court system allowed Williams to walk out the door of the jail without paying a penny. Only his signature was needed.
According to court records, police went to 24th and Burleigh after receiving a complaint of a person with a gun. Donnie Williams matched the description, so an officer chased him on foot for three blocks.
The criminal complaint said that the officer was about 10 feet behind Williams when Williams turned and pointed the gun at the police officer, firing at least five shots. Seven casings were recovered.
His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21, 2023.
He also has an open misdemeanor case for resisting an officer for which he was released on $1000 cash bond, which was set by court commissioner Grace Flynn on May 19, 2022.
He has a previous conviction from 2011 for possessing a firearm as a felon and one from 2007, when he was also convicted of cocaine possession. He also has a felony conviction for armed robbery use of force.
The criminal complaint was filed on May 18, 2022, court records show. He was listed as being in custody at that time. On May 19, 2022, at his initial appearance, Court Commissioner Grace Flynn set his bail at $500,000 cash. By June 2022, the public defender’s office had appointed an attorney to represent him and he had appeared for a preliminary hearing.
On Oct. 14, 2022, as pretrial motions were unfolding, the court asked Judge Michael Hanrahan to review bail. Hanrahan reduced bail to $250,000 cash. That same date, Williams filed a request for a speedy trial. On Nov. 7, 2022, the defense withdrew the request for a speedy trial and was given time to review discovery, which was calls from the jail, and then re-enters another speedy trial demand to expire in February 2023. The case remained in trial posture.
On Feb. 6, 2023, jury selection started. “State advises of issue,” the court records say. “Defense requests adjournment due to issue. Court grants defense motion to adjourn. Court grants defense’s adjournment request and due to speedy trial statue resets bail. Courts sets $100,000.00 signature bond TOT to Justice point (level 5) with GPS monitoring (24 hour curfew). Absolute sobriety, drug testing, no dangerous weapons. Court orders defendant to be released if no GPS and placed on waitlist. 24 hour curfew to still apply while waiting for GPS.” The bail decision was made by Hanrahan.
The court records do not say what the “issue” was; we have contacted the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office and asked. There were various briefs and appearances in the case as the months unfolded. On June 1, 2023, the court refused the defendant’s motion to modify the bail condition of curfew.
On June 7, 2023, there was a JusticePoint pretrial supervision violation recorded. “Court takes no action due to malfunction of GPS unit,” the records say. A jury trial was held on June 20, 2023.
On June 22, 2023, Williams did not appear for court so he was tried in absentia after it was believed he cut off his GPS device. Court records say:
“Defendant fails to appear. Defense advises that he received text saying would be here. Defense requests 10 more minutes. State request to wait 10 more minutes for either another update or arrival. Court grants parties request. Discussion regarding jury instructions. Justice point contacts court regarding defendant’s GPS ankle alert consistent with a removal of device. Court inquires if any reply from defendant regarding returning to court. Defense does not have any reply from defendant. State request bench warrant and proceed. Defendant failing to appear, Court orders bench warrant and forfeits bail. Court will proceed with trial in-absentia.”
A bench warrant was issued on June 22, 2023. Donnie Williams was convicted on all counts in absentia.
Donnie Williams, 43, was charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon as a habitual criminality repeater and faces a mandatory minimum sentence for repeat firearm crimes. He is also charged with attempted first-degree recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon as a habitual criminality repeater, and possession firearm, convicted of a felony, habitual criminality as a repeater.