'Foolish act' punished in shooting of Palo Verde High School freshman

Michael Privett measured his words and spoke slowly.

His voice still cracked and at times was drowned out by the sound of typing coming from a court reporter.

“We are all living in the aftermath of someone else’s senseless, foolish act. Nothing can be done to make that right,” said the father of 15-year-old son Christopher Privett, who was gunned down in 2008 on his way home from Palo Verde High School.

Michael Privett spoke Wednesday at the District Court sentencing of Ezekiel Williams who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter with a deadly weapon and accessory to murder for his role in the slaying. Williams, who is now 20, was sentenced to spend eight to 20 years in prison by District Court Judge Stefany Miley.

Miley gave credit to Williams for the 524 days he has served in jail, meaning he will be eligible for parole in less than seven years. He faced multiple charges before taking a plea deal, including murder and attempted murder.

When given the opportunity to address the court, Williams’ mournful, quiet voice needed amplification from a microphone. “I’d like to apologize to the Privett family for the loss of their child.” Williams said. “Also, I’d like to apologize to my family for this embarrassment, this stress I put on them. I would just like to say I’m sorry.”

Michael Privett spoke to the senselessness of the crime.

“He was gunned down for no reason. Merely the crime of walking home,” he said of his son. “I mean, what kind of world has this become? It’s like a mad house.”

The grieving father told Miley that he remembered his son, Christopher Privett, as more than the honor student and athlete first described in media reports after his murder.

At home, he’s surrounded by mementos of his son’s life: an autograph obtained at a Las Vegas 51s baseball game; a star chart used to find constellations while sitting around a campfire; the model cars they built together; the rock and shell collections from family vacations.

He also has the memory of a hasty goodbye exchanged on Feb. 15, 2008, when Michael Privett dropped off his son at Palo Verde High School, 333 S. Pavilion Center Drive, near Alta Drive.

Christopher Privett was killed later that day in a drive-by shooting.

Authorities said Williams drove the vehicle used in the shooting and handed the weapon to Gerald Davison. Davison opened fire after he had exchanged rival gang signs with the students Privett was walking with, witnesses previously testified Davison, who last month pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with a deadly weapon and attempted murder for shooting Christopher Privett, will be sentenced Aug. 12. According to the district attorney’s office, Davison’s plea required him to say he intended to kill when he shot at the group of four boys that included Privett.

At times, Michael Privett looked up and surveyed the courtroom as he spoke. Williams stood before him dressed in navy blue prison garb, his arms shackled.

Privett described a recent road trip to spread Christopher’s ashes in the creeks, mountains and oceans they had visited together.

He did that, “so that when I see those things, I remember him.”

Christopher’s mother, Barbara Privett, also spoke at the sentencing, all the while choking back tears and clutching a tissue.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t look at his picture and cry,” she said of her son. “I think about what he would have looked like today... how he would have changed.”

Williams’ defense attorney Brent Bryson said this case has no winners. “It was a tragedy for all concerned.”

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.