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Escape suspect denied choice of attorneys

By Ed Brock

A murder suspect accused of escaping from the Clayton County jail with another man was denied his choice of attorneys in a hearing Thursday.

The escape case against 26-year-old Floyd Wayne Williams of Union City was bound over to the grand jury for indictment consideration after a quick preliminary hearing. Williams and another murder suspect, 29-year-old Shawn Stanley Gilreath, escaped from the Harold R. Banke Justice Center on Nov. 18 and were recaptured Dec. 5 in Baltimore, Md.

The two men forced their way through a security screen in an exercise yard, scaled a perimeter fence, got into a waiting car and rode away.

Attorney James Studdard had been assigned to Williams' escape case and listed as the attorney of record. Matt Rubenstein with Multi-County Public Defenders appeared in court with Studdard to explain that he had been Williams' attorney in the murder case against him and claimed that Studdard had no right to represent Williams.

Prior to the preliminary hearing Studdard told Magistrate Court Chief Judge Michael Baird that in a previous hearing he had fought against Rubenstein's involvement in the case because at that time he thought he was just an "interloper." Studdard said he now understood that Rubenstein had prior involvement with Williams and said he left the decision on who would represent Williams to the court.

Williams also asked Baird to allow Rubenstein to represent him.

Saying that, because Studdard was the attorney of record in the case and because another Magistrate Court judge had confirmed that status in a ruling the week before, Baird decided that Studdard would remain as Williams' attorney. He then advised Studdard that he should petition Clayton County Superior Court Judge Stephen Boswell to be removed as the attorney of record.

Williams has been charged with murder in the shooting death of 16-month-old Jose Arias and 48-year-old Alejandro Gutierrez in October 2001. He is also the half-brother of Michael Hutson, 30. Hutson was arrested along with another man in April that year in connection with a home invasion at the Gutierrez home and during which the robbers held a gun to Arias' head.

Gilreath is believed to be the mastermind behind the 1996 killing of 69-year-old Edwin Levi McCollum, a clerk at the now closed Bear Paw Army-Navy Store that was on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro. Gilreath possibly had connections to white supremacist groups, police have said.

Gilreath is still in federal custody.