Ronald Stahlman, the former patch holder with the American Outlaws Association who moved to Arizona after a man died in an Ohio street fight thirty years ago, pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter last Wednesday.
Because Stahlman, 56, pled guilty to a crime that happened in 1979, he was sentenced under 1979 law. Judge Andrew D. Logan sentenced Stahlman to serve between one and 10 years in prison. After he begins his sentence the state parole board will determine how many years Stahlman will actually have to do.
On April 29th, 1979, Stahlman and a friend named Roger Collins were drunk in Collins’ pickup truck. Collins, who was driving, accidently rear-ended a car operated by 18-year-old Bernard Williamson. It was 3:30 in the morning in Warren, Ohio.
Williamson jumped out of his car to instigate a fight. The only two surviving witnesses, Glen Ellison and Patricia Strickland, remember seeing Williamson beating Collins to the ground and seeing Stahlman get out of the truck to help his friend. Stahlman’s public defender, Tracy Lazlo, pointed out that there was no particular reason not to think that it was a drunken Stahlman who Williamson was trying to beat to death and a drunken Collins who went to his aid.
A short time later, police found Williamson dying in the street with nine stab wounds.
There was absolutely no physical evidence in the case. All the blood evidence and other tangible evidence disappeared when a Cleveland forensics lab went out of business in 1979. The local police lost the crime scene photos all on their own. The prosecution’s case boiled down to the argument that no innocent man would ever run away after a first degree murder warrant was issued for his arrest.
The Myth Of Lie Detectors
The Warren police put warrants out on both Stahlman and Collins. A week after the fight Collins turned himself in and confessed that Stahlman did it. He passed a lie detector test and was allowed to plead guilty to assault and obstruction of justice. He was punished with six months in the Trumbull County Jail.
After his apprehension, Stahlman also agreed to take a lie detector test. He failed. Anyone who has ever been within ten feet of a lie detector knows that police manipulate the test results which is why the results are not legal evidence. However the prosecutor in the case, Chris Becker, made sure that jurors knew about the tests anyway.
Becker also put Stahlman’s mother and one of his daughters on the stand and tried to make Stahlman’s wife testify against him. Stahlman confessed before Becker could get his other daughter in the witness chair.
Beyond His Control
When he entered his plea, Stahlman told the judge and relatives of the victim that he was at the scene of the murder, that he was sorry, that he apologized and “wished there was something I could do but I can’t.” He said Williamson’s death was “beyond my control.”
Becker called the plea just. “We are very happy we have a 30-year-old homicide solved,” he told the local television cameras. “Although justice was delayed, it was not denied.”
Later however, Becker told the Youngstown Vindicator that it was mostly just because he had won the case. “What happened that night, unfortunately, nobody knows,” Becker admitted to the Vindicator. “One of the two (Collins or Stahlman) had to stab him (Williamson) but which one, I can’t venture a guess.”
Which is a lie right there. Becker did guess. And then he bullied a defendant’s family until the defendant agreed that the prosecutor’s guess was the truth.