An accused murderer was released from jail while awaiting his murder trial, and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins wants him back behind bars.
William Utley was released from custody on Monday on his own recognizance. Along with second-degree murder, Utley faces his fifth drunken driving charge, as well as firearm charges, according to a news release from Rollins’s office.
Rollins has filed an emergency petition with a single justice of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, arguing that the judge who released him “abused her discretion,” and that Utley “poses a ‘grave risk to public safety.’”
Pushing for Utley’s return is in contrast with Rollins’s stance on reducing the number of prisoners held during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I fully understand the risk that COVID-19 poses to everyone, including people who are incarcerated,’’ Rollins said in the release. “Mr. Utley, however, is accused of murdering someone while he was on pre-trial release for firearm charges and while on GPS monitoring. In addition to committing murder, in a separately charged incident he was also arrested for his 5th OUI, again, all while on pre-trial release with a GPS monitor for the aforementioned firearm charges.”
In the filing with the Supreme Judicial Court, Rollins’s office detailed the three pending cases Utley has in superior court.
The firearm charge stems from an incident that allegedly occurred on Dec. 23, 2016, the release says. Utley allegedly fired a Colt semi-automatic pistol into the air on Dorchester’s Brookledge Street. His arraignment on multiple firearms charges occurred in January 2018, and he posted $8,500 in bail.
It was while he was released on bail for these charges, and being monitored via GPS, that Utley allegedly stabbed Anthony Young multiple times on March 25, 2018 after the two argued in a Grove Hall bar. Utley was held without bail when arraigned on second-degree murder in January 2019, and was scheduled to begin his murder trial on Monday.
Prior to being arraigned on the murder charge, but out on bail on the firearms charges, is when Utley was allegedly found passed out behind the wheel, and picked up the fifth drunken driving charge, on Oct. 6, 2018. Authorities allegedly found him “passed out behind the wheel at a busy intersection with a bottle of liquor between his legs [and several other liquor bottles strewn about his vehicle].” Authorities found he had a half-empty bottle of Remy Martin cognac, and there were “several bottles” of Ciroc in the vehicle.
“And if that were not enough, the defendant also has [a] long history of defaulting in his criminal cases, having defaulted at least 13 times,” the release says. Utley’s attorney said his client could post $11,000 bail, but the judge released him without having to post any. “Releasing him on personal recognizance is a threat to the community and doing so without even imposing any amount of bail adds insult to potential injury to the people of Suffolk County.”
Rollins, alongside other district attorneys, has been pushing to have the prison populations reduced during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“While Americans across the country are being encouraged to self-isolate, members of our incarcerated population are, by definition, doing the exact opposite with no alternative options,” Rollins’s office said in a statement last month. “We need to seriously consider pathways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for our incarcerated populations, the overwhelming majority of which will return to our communities at some point in the future.”
However, she argued that the “significant danger” Utley poses to the public “far outweighs any claims he is making of a personal health risk.”
“Mr. Utley absolutely deserves appropriate medical care for his underlying health condition,” she said in the release. “But, that care must be provided within a correctional facility as he has proven that he is incapable of complying with conditions set to keep our community safe.’’