An Uptown cocaine dealer who shot a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent during a raid in a 2020 narcotics investigation tied to slain Pittsburgh rapper Jimmy Wopo is facing up to 25 years in federal prison when a judge sentences him on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Stephanie Haines will send Dion Williams, 46, away for at least 20 years, since that’s what he agreed to at his plea hearing in June.
Williams will be sentenced in three cases — his role in the Wopo-connected drug ring, his shooting of the ATF agent and his probation violations from a 2011 federal drug conviction.
At issue is whether Williams should get an extra five years in connection to the 2011 case, for which he was sentenced to 54 months in prison and eight years of probation.
His lawyer, R. Damien Schorr, said 20 years is appropriate even though he said it could amount to a life sentence considering his client’s morbid obesity and related health problems.
But he asked that the probation violation sentence be made concurrent, not consecutive, to the other sentences.
Among his main arguments is Williams’ contention that he didn’t realize he was shooting at federal agents when they stormed his house in 2020.
The U.S. attorney’s office is asking for the full 25 years.
The 20-year sentence, worked out by both parties over several years, is well below the guideline range of 31 to 37 years. But assistant U.S. Attorneys Jerome Moschetta and Doug Maloney said the wounded ATF agent, who will present a victim impact statement on Thursday, has endorsed the sentence.
Moschetta said that if Williams gets the extra five years, he’ll be 65 when he gets out — an age when criminals are less likely to re-offend.
Williams was part of a drug-dealing Hill District gang dismantled by an FBI and ATF wiretap operation that culminated in mass arrests on June 18, 2020. The taps revealed Williams was communicating with other ring members about buying and selling cocaine.
An ATF tactical unit rolled up on Williams’ house on Marion Street, and agents announced themselves on a public address system. An agent then rammed open the door. It swung open but then swung back shut and locked, forcing the agent to breach it again. When he did, Williams shot him through the shoulder.
The agent recovered at a local hospital and returned to duty.
Williams took his gun apart after the shooting and hid the pieces under his basement steps. He stashed the magazine and his ammo in a false ceiling on the second floor.
Agents arrested Williams along with other members of the ring. He ended up pleading guilty to trafficking between 500 grams and 2 kilos of cocaine in addition to the shooting.
In arguing for leniency, Schorr said the drug case against Williams consists entirely of wiretap evidence between him and Donald Epps, the main defendant, with no controlled buys or drug or cash recoveries.
On the morning of the raid, he said, Williams was asleep at 6 a.m. after spending the night working in his tattoo business and smoking pot. Schorr said he slept through the public address announcements from ATF and then shot the agent when he breached the door.
“Mr. Williams did not know that he was shooting at an ATF agent,” Schorr said. “He had been the victim of a home invasion in the past, when a gun had been held to his head. He reacted before knowing just who was breaking down the door to his home. He made statements to that effect that same day, which the government has acknowledged. The first thing he saw was a gun.”
Moschetta disputed the contention that Williams didn’t know who he was shooting. He said a reading of the facts of that morning would lead a reasonable person to conclude that he knew law officers were at his door, not an unknown intruder. Agents knocked and announced their presence outside multiple times, used flash bangs and then deployed an ATF armored vehicle equipped with the public address system to tell Williams to come out.
Further, Moschetta said, the agent breached the door and announced himself. The door swung back and re-locked. It took him 20 seconds to breach it again, after which he announced himself again and “saw the defendant standing and pointing a gun at him.”
After the shooting, he said, Williams then took his gun apart and tried to hide the parts.
The judge, Moschetta said, “could reasonably infer that these efforts were intended by the defendant to conceal his responsibility for the shooting.”
The underlying drug case was a multidefendant wiretap investigation of a cocaine ring in Pittsburgh and throughout Allegheny County connected to the 11 Hunnit gang in the Hill that ATF and FBI said was led partly by Wopo, whose real name was Travon Smart. He was gunned down in 2018.