Sheriff Arrests Pastor but Releases Criminal Who Murdered

Apr 16, 2020

TAMPA, FL – Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, who arrested the pastor of The River at Tampa Bay Church for holding a church service that he approved three days earlier, recently released 164 criminal offenders stating it was “to protect our detention deputies, their families, the remainder of our inmate population, and ultimately, our community” in light of the Coronavirus issue. Sheriff Chronister’s bad decision has now resulted in the death of an innocent citizen who was murdered the day after the criminal was released. 

On March 20, the day after Joseph Williams was released by Sheriff Chronister, Williams murdered an innocent citizen. Deputies said the victim was found injured on the street, and he later died in the hospital. Williams now faces new charges of second-degree murder, resisting an officer with violence, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of heroin, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Williams was previously convicted of two felony offenses, including burglary of an unoccupied conveyance in 2012 and felon in possession of a firearm in 2018, along with five misdemeanor convictions. In fact, throughout the course of his criminal history, Williams has been arrested for 35 charges. He is currently back in jail on a “no bond” status. 

Sheriff Chronister stated before the release of these criminals, “These defendants are the lowest public-safety risk and were merely sitting in jail because they could not afford to pay the amount it would take to bond out.”

Liberty Counsel represents Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay Church who Sheriff Chronister arrested and defamed for conducting a church service on Sunday, March 29, which Chronister had approved three days earlier. The two charges are second-degree misdemeanors that carry a maximum penalty of two months in jail and $500 fine. The policy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff Office is to NOT arrest a person charged with a misdemeanor. Sheriff Chronister violated his own internal policy by not allowing the pastor to go to the police station to process the paperwork. Instead, Chronister ran to a hastily called press conference where he repeatedly lied about the pastor and the church. These reckless lies have resulted in death threats to the pastor and even a bomb threat to the church. 

On April 1, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis revised the state’s executive order to emphasize that “attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship” is an “essential activity.” Therefore, Hillsborough County’s order restricting churches was therefore overruled. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “My heart and prayers go out to the family and friends of the victim murdered by a criminal that Sheriff Chad Chronister released. Sheriff Chronister has his priorities reversed – he arrested a pastor and released a killer. The people of Hillsborough County deserve much better.” 

Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics. Liberty Counsel provides broadcast quality TV interviews via Hi-Def Skype and LTN at no cost.