Former Houston agent gets 10 years for flash-bang prank

By Cindy George
The Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON — A former federal firearms agent whose prank with a stun grenade maimed a friend's foot was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Friday.

A Houston jury in December convicted Eugene H. Williams Jr., 45, of six firearms counts related to the possession and storage of "flash-bang" explosives.

At the time of the prank in 2004, Williams was a reserve officer with the Hempstead Police Department and the advance tactical team coordinator for Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for 15 years to more than 19 years in prison. Williams' attorneys suggested a fair punishment would be between three and five years.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner handed down the sentence, which was suggested by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen. Hittner said he based his ruling on Williams' history in law enforcement, the military, civic and charitable causes and letters of support from across the country.

"Gene was prosecuted for a prank that went horribly bad," said his attorney, Scot Courtney. "I am disappointed. ... These laws were designed for criminals who are using and possessing firearms, like pipe bombs."

But prosecutors argued that Williams amassed an illegal collection of explosives that, paired with a penchant for high jinks, made him a dangerous man. Stun grenades are used by police in SWAT-type situations to disorient criminal suspects.

Federal officials said they learned that Williams was using explosives for horseplay after a stun grenade exploded during a bachelor party at his Magnolia home in August 2004. Steven Cosby, an assistant fire chief in Huffman, lost part of his foot in the blast.

Cypress Creek emergency officials turned over more than 70 grenades or detonators to federal agents that they said had been found in Williams' office.

He was an agent from 1989 to 1998 with what then was called the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He still faces aggravated assault charges in Montgomery County.

Copyright 2007 The Houston Chronicle

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