Weed men released on O.R., preliminary hearing continued

Jamie Gentner

Two girls wearing orange shirts that read “Free Jeffrey” got their wish on Friday when Jeffrey Williams and Johnson Sivongsa were released on their own recognizance after their preliminary hearing was continued.

The courtroom was filled with people appearing in support of the two 21-year-old Weed men who were arrested on July 16 on charges that stem from a party held in October 2007 that was attended by students from College of the Siskiyous, according to Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department Captain Jim Betts.

An 18-year-old female was allegedly raped at the party.

Further details about the incident are not being released at this time, Betts said, because the investigation is ongoing.

Williams faces charges of rape in concert with force/violence, oral copulation in concert with force/etc., rape by force/fear/etc., false imprisonment with violence/etc. and rape of a drugged victim.

Sivongsa is being charged with rape in concert with force/violence, two counts of oral copulation in concert with force/etc. and seven counts of false imprisonment with violence/etc.

Siskiyou County Superior Court Judge Laura Masunaga presided over an arraignment hearing July 19, at which both defendants entered pleas of not guilty. Public Defender Andrew Marx and Defense Attorney William Duncan requested their clients be released on their own recognizance, but the requests were denied and bail for each of the men was set at $250,000.

But Judge Karen Dixon allowed the O.R. release Friday, ordering the men to make all court appearances and obey all laws while they are out.

She made that decision after she, Marx, Duncan and Christopher Pallone of the Siskiyou County District Attorney’s office had an in-chambers discussion.

Upon returning to the courtroom, Dixon announced that the preliminary hearing originally scheduled for Friday would be continued because there was material evidence the defense attorneys need for the preliminary stage that the DA’s office had just received and had not had a chance to give to them.

In addition, other suspects are expected to be brought into the case, and postponing the hearing may enable all defendants to attend the hearing, Dixon said.

“At this point, we know where they are, and we are working on securing their arrest,” Pallone said regarding the other suspects.

When Williams’ and Sivongsa’s release was announced, several supporters clapped, and many of them also attended a barbecue at Williams’ home afterward in celebration.

The two men will be back in court for their preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15.