LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The trial for a social justice activist began Monday, more than two years after she was charged with five misdemeanor counts related to her alleged actions during Black Lives Matter protests in Lexington.
Sarah Williams, who became a vocal leader during those protests, is charged with inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of marijuana.
Williams was one of at least a dozen protesters--including Williams' twin sister April Taylor--arrested and charged in June 2020. Williams is the sole defendant standing trial.
In his opening statement, Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts took jurors back to June 2020, when he said Williams and Taylor used megaphones to guide the movement of the crowds. Roberts claimed Williams and Taylor rebuffed efforts by Lexington Police command staff to coordinate movements so officers could plan accordingly for traffic purposes.
"It became kind of a cat and mouse game," Roberts said.
Roberts said on the evening of June 13, police officers became "increasingly concerned" about safety at the department's headquarters on West Main Street. At the time, officers placed barriers outside the main door.
Roberts alleged that Williams became "accusatory of the police" for putting up the barriers. He suggested that her public denouncement of the barriers caused tension to heighten in the crowds. He outlined an incident when protesters cut zip ties to breach the barriers.
While Roberts laid out his opening arguments, he stopped at times to make concessions.
"There's no suggestion in this case that Ms. Williams or her sister participated in any acts of damage or injury to any people," Roberts acknowledged.
Daniel Whitley, Williams' defense attorney, seized on those comments in his opening argument.
"This is about someone not agreeing with a political free speech and figuring out creative ways to punish it," Whitley argued. "Ms. Williams, in my opinion--and I think the evidence shows--is somewhat of a political prisoner."
Whitley argued that Williams has been targeted for her past comments about contract negotiations between the city of Lexington and the Fraternal Order of Police.
"This case is not about Ms. Williams being unpleasant or rocking your horse town's political climate," Whitley said. "This was about Ms. Williams and the FOP."
Shortly after open arguments wrapped up, Judge John Tackett motioned toward the gallery, where April Taylor was sitting.
LEX 18 crews saw Taylor approach the bench, along with lawyers on both sides, before quickly walking away, voicing her frustration at Roberts.
We later learned Judge Tackett informed Taylor that she was issued a subpoena by Roberts' office to testify against her sister.
William Davis, Taylor's lawyer, later confirmed to LEX 18 that he was also caught off guard by the subpoena.
The subpoena will be at the heart of a hearing before the trial resumes Tuesday. Davis and Williams' defense attorney will attempt to get the subpoena dismissed.
After the first day of the trial ended, Williams told LEX 18 that she felt good. When asked about the subpoena given to her sister, Williams said she believes Taylor would invoke her fifth amendment right if compelled to testify.