Officer

‘Despicable’ Duo Plead Guilty to Killing Philadelphia Police Sgt. Robert Wilson, Avoid Death Penalty

Carlton Hipps and Ramone Williams admitted to killing Philly Police Sgt. Robert Wilson III; they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars

Despite tear-filled pleas from friends and family of Sgt. Robert Wilson III, the two men now convicted of his 2015 murder avoided the death penalty Monday after accepting a deal from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.  

Instead, both Carlton Hipps, 32, and Ramone Williams, 28, were each sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 50 to 100 years. They also waived their right to appeal the sentence.

During an emotional and sometimes explosive hearing, Philadelphia Judge J. Scott O'Keefe called both Hipps and Williams "despicable." 

"You took a brave, honorable and righteous defender of society," he said. "He was one of the best men."

Wilson was killed in March 2015 while attempting to thwart a robbery inside a North Philadelphia GameStop. Wilson - who was on patrol with his partner, Officer Damien Stevenson - stopped inside the store to buy his son a birthday present. 

He engaged in a fierce gun battle with Hipps and Williams while diverting gunfire away from innocent bystanders, officials said. 

Stevenson was among those who packed into the crowded Philadelphia courtroom Monday afternoon. He recalled that on the day Wilson died, he exchanged gunfire with Williams but did not kill him. 

"I spared your life," he said while looking at Williams. "But you didn't spare his."

Williams sat quietly in the courtroom, occassionally making eye contact with Wilson's supporters and addressing them directly before sentencing. Hipps remained inscrutable. 

"I accept responsibility for what I did," Williams mumbled.

Shaki’ra Wilson-Burroughs, sister of slain Philadelphia Police Sgt. Robert Wilson III, said she was left speechless when she learned Friday afternoon that the men accused of killing her brother were given plea deals to avoid the death penalty. She has strong words for District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Stevenson accused the district attorney's office of never contacting him or Wilson's family while the case was under review. 

"My number has been the same for 15 years," he said. "For three years, I had to be the good guy. I had to wait."

Wilson's family waged a similar complaint against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Speaking in court, several relatives said they were not notified until late Friday about the plea deal. 

"The DA failed a hero," Wilson's cousin, Melissa Pierce, said outside the courthouse. 

Krasner, who attended the proceedings in the morning but left midway, painted a very different picture to the court. He said that both mothers of Wilson's two sons did not want to seek the death penalty and had been intimidated, harassed and even threatened by members of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). Krasner also said that he and members of his team met with Wilson's family members earlier this year to discuss possible outcomes.

"They want to be left alone to recover," Krasner said of Wilson's exes, adding that a prolonged murder trial would have re-traumatized the officer's relatives by forcing them to relive his death in court. 

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Krasner doubled down on his allegations against the FOP. He said that he left Monday's hearing because the mothers of Wilson's children were experiencing "verbal abuse" and "physical intimidation" as a result of the plea deal. 

A spokesman for the FOP told NBC10 they had just learned of Krasner's allegations against the organization. The spokesman did not comment further.

Krasner, who vowed to never seek the death penalty during his campaign for office, equated a life sentence without parole to death by incarceration. 

“People who get the death sentence in Pennsylvania die in custody," he said during a press conference following the hearing. "It’s the same outcome.”

Currently, there is a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2015.

But that moratorium could one day be lifted, Wilson's family said in court. His sister, Shaki'ra Wilson-Burroughs, accused Krasner of coming into office with a prejudice against captial punishment that does not honor her brother's legacy. 

"They failed my brother completely, without question," she said.

“It’s a smack in the face. It’s disrespectful and ignorant,” said the sister of a Philadelphia police officer who was killed in the line of duty, after learning the men accused would accept a plea deal.

Hipps and Williams also pleaded guilty to eight other robberies all committed within four months of Wilson's death. 

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