Man convicted of killing Hadiya Pendleton is sentenced to decades in prison

Kenneth Williams was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2018 after serving as the getaway driver in Pendleton’s shooting.

The man who participated in the 2013 shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton in a random act of gun violence that riveted the nation has been sentenced to 42 years in prison. 

Kenneth Williams, 29, was found guilty in 2018 of first-degree murder after serving as the getaway driver in Pendleton’s shooting. At his sentencing Tuesday, he refused the assistance of attorneys and instead represented himself. 

In this 2013 handout provided by the Chicago Police Department, Kenneth Williams, then 20, poses for a booking photo. Williams was charged in connection with the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. (Photo by Chicago Police Department via Getty Images)

According to a report in The Chicago Tribune before the hearing, Williams espoused that he was a sovereign citizen, who posit that the United States justice system is illegitimate. 

Judge Diana Kenworthy told Williams the theory was giving him “bad advice.” He was then asked how much time he would need to be prepared for his sentencing, to which he replied, “Ms. Kenworthy, you’re not acknowledging me as the credit I am in this situation; you’re denying me my right to full faith and credit. I do not consent, I am not contracting with you all in this matter.”

In this Feb. 2013 photo, a Chicago resident looks over a reward flyer at a community meeting inspired by the death of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old high school honor student shot and killed while hanging out with friends on a rainy afternoon. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Despite his belief in sovereignty, Williams was sentenced to 42 years in prison for his role in the shooting of the King College Prep High School honor student, who died after being fired upon while she and some friends were standing under a shelter on a warm rainy afternoon in a park less than a mile from then-President Barack Obama‘s Chicago residence. 

Williams’ co-defendant, Micheail Ward, was sentenced to 84 years in prison in 2019 after being found guilty of being the one who fired the fateful bullet, believing he was aiming at rival gang members. Ward, who was 18 at at the time, had been on probation; he’d pled guilty to weapons charges the previous year. 

According to NBC News, at Williams’ sentencing Tuesday, Pendleton’s mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, gave a victim impact statement in which she told him, “You are responsible for so much sadness, hurt and depression. We’ve all had to re-create our lives, learn how to breathe, think, communicate and function. It has been hell.” 

Pendleton’s death made national news when she was killed in 2013, and her death — which Obama decried from the podium in his “State of the Union” speech — became a rallying cry for gun control. Her funeral services were attended by then-First Lady Michelle Obama. 

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