Attorney: Emotional testimony could get Gloria Williams a harsher sentence

Woman who pleaded guilty to kidnapping Kamiyah Mobley expected to testify Friday

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Gloria Williams, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to kidnapping a Jacksonville newborn in 1998, will return to court Friday morning for the second and final day of a sentencing hearing.

Powerful testimony Thursday from the kidnapped victim's biological parents could be the reason Williams, 52, could face up to 22 years in prison, according to a local attorney. 

Williams was arrested in Colleton County, South Carolina, in January 2017. The break came when there was a DNA match between the kidnapped baby, Kamiyah Mobley, and the woman Williams had raised as Alexis Manigo.

Earlier this year, Williams admitted to kidnapping Kamiyah from what was then University Hospital, now UF Health Jacksonville, just hours after she was born. Now a young woman, she chooses to go by the name Williams gave her, and has asked the court to impose a light sentence.

In exchange for her guilty plea on her kidnapping and interference with custody charges, Williams is asking for between zero and 22 years in prison on the kidnapping charge and zero to five years on the interference charge. Those sentences would be able to be served at the same time.

In very emotional fashion, the mother whose newborn was taken from her hospital room, Shanara Mobley, took the stand Thursday to testify against Williams. 

"That is my child. I am your mother, Kamiyah," Mobley shouted out. 

Since the kidnapping nearly two decades ago, Mobley testified, her life has changed. The court heard similar statements from Craig Aiken, the biological father, and Velma Aiken, the biological grandmother. 

READ: Gloria Williams' own dad on kidnapping of Kamiyah Mobley: Did crime; do time

Attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters, who's not affiliated with the case, said those statements could get Williams a harsher sentence.

"I believe, after hearing those statements, she may be closer to the top end of that 22 years," Peoples-Waters said.

Williams’ eldest son also testified Thursday, painting a more personal image of Williams and how she raised her children. 

Peoples-Waters said that was favorable for the defendant. 

"The defendant has gotten the benefit of a plea negotiation, where she would’ve been exposed up to life for this type of charge and now her exposure has been limited to the 22 years," she said. "So that in and of itself is a great amount of benefit."

The woman Williams raised as her daughter has appealed to the court, asking for a short sentence.

Manigo interacted with both families in court Thursday, but sat separate from them. She was originally expected to testify, but late Thursday, the defense told the judge that her previous statements would be read in court.

Early on, she was very supportive of Williams, saying she had a good life and didn’t think she deserved a stiff punishment.

Peoples-Waters said her actions could be strategic, and not testifying could be her way of trying to maintain a relationship with all parties. 

"I’m sure she has now had to consider, 'I can’t only think about the mother who raised me. I have to think about my biological mother and father and how this affected them,'" Peoples-Waters said. "This is probably the best way for her to make sure she maintains a relationship with all of them."

Williams is expected to take the stand in her own defense on Friday. The proceedings will be streamed on News4Jax.com.

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