The Augusta Republican was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to a 10-year term along with Augusta pharmacist Duncan Fordham of a scheme to bilk the East Central Georgia Community Mental Health Center with a contract obtained by bribing its director, according to court documents.
Williams and Fordham based their appeals on a Supreme Court decision in the case of former Enron Chief Executive Officer Jeffery Skilling. Like Skilling, Williams and Fordham were formally charged with violating a law that included the theft of "honest services." Skilling successfully argued that the honest-services-fraud law was unconstitutionally too vague.
However, Williams and Fordham did not convince the Court of Appeals they should benefit from the same reasoning as Skilling because the three-judge appeals panel concluded the jury convicted the pair for bribery, which was clearly illegal.
Judge Beverly Martin, writing for the appeals court, notes that Williams and Fordham complained about mentions of honest services during the trial but did not prove the jury was prejudiced as a result.
"The Skilling decision did nothing to remove bribery as a method for committing honest-services fraud," she wrote. "The sporadic references to 'honest services' and the single jury instruction on the now invalid theory of honest services are not sufficient to show that Mr. Fordham and Mr. Williams were prejudiced in light of the evidence of their participation in an actual bribery scheme."