A Tuolomne County man who said he planned to start a right-wing revolution was sentenced Thursday to 400 years to life in state prison for shooting at California Highway Patrol officers on an Oakland freeway four years ago.
Byron Williams, 48, of Groveland, was convicted last month of four counts of premeditated attempted murder and three counts of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm in connection with a 12-minute gun battle on Interstate Highway 580 near the Harrison Street exit just before midnight on July 17, 2010.
Prosecutor Autrey James told jurors in his closing argument in the case that Williams, who was wearing body armor, initiated the gun battle by shooting at CHP Officer Vincent Herrick after he stopped Williams for speeding and weaving.
Before he was sentenced today, Williams insisted that CHP officers shot at him first and said he does not understand how he could have been convicted of attempted murder for defending himself.
Williams also said, "This was a false conviction because of my testimony against the political powers that control this area and those who are in power in this day and age in our government."
But Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay said the evidence in the case was clear that Williams fired first and it was the CHP officers who fired in self-defense.
Clay said that when CHP officers stopped Williams for speeding, "he was on a mission to kill executives at the Tides Foundation," a San Francisco-based nonprofit group that advocates social change through philanthropy.
Clay said that if Williams couldn't find anyone at the Tides Foundation office, he planned to move on to the American Civil Liberties Union office in San Francisco and kill lawyers there.
Clay said Williams was wearing a bulletproof vest, was armed with three guns and was prepared to do a lot of damage.
Referring to the exchange of gunshots on the freeway, Clay said, "It's beyond comprehension to see a gun battle like that on a highway in the Bay Area."
Williams and two CHP officers suffered minor injuries in the shooting incident.