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Shawn M. Williams walked from the courtroom holding cell in a gray suit, crisp white shirt and tie to hear the jury's decision in his murder trial.

He clenched his fists and closed his eyes Tuesday when Ramsey County District Judge Margaret M. Marrinan read the first verdict form: not guilty of first-degree murder. Williams collapsed in the arms of his attorney Jeffrey Martin as the judge read the second: not guilty of second-degree murder.

Defense attorneys Ellen Seesel and Martin said all along that Williams loved victim Timothy E. Williams like a brother and never would have killed him. The two are not related.

Williams yelled a tearful "thank you" to jurors as Martin helped him up off his knees and deputies led him back to the holding cell. It took a couple of hours for authorities to process paperwork and release him from the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center.

"Thank you all so much. I'm going to get my boy," his mother, Sharon Williams, said as she hugged members of the defense team.

"I'm gonna smack the hell out of him for putting me through this ... " she said.

The defense attorneys pinned the killing on Andre D. Davis, 27, who drove the defendant to the victim's apartment complex in Little Canada early on Sept. 7. As Timothy Williams helped Shawn Williams carry baskets of clothes and shoes to Davis' Ford Explorer, six shots rang out. Four hit Timothy Williams, 25.

A resident of Timothy Williams' apartment building was the first prosecution witness to testify at Shawn Williams' trial. He said he heard the shots and looked out his window to see one man lying on the ground and another hurriedly picking up strewn belongings before hopping into the vehicle.

Williams has been in custody since his arrest Sept. 9. Davis was on the run for almost three months before he was captured. He pleaded guilty on Feb. 2 to aiding and abetting second-degree murder and agreed to testify against Shawn Williams. Davis is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday by District Judge William H. Leary.

Williams' acquittal won't change that, said County Attorney Susan Gaertner said. "The plea agreement was based on him testifying truthfully," she said. "We believe he did so. The fact that he didn't convince the jury doesn't change our agreement with him."

Seesel and Martin declined to comment after the verdict.

Prosecutors Juan Hoyos and Shereen Askalani contended that Shawn Williams shot Timothy Williams after the two had argued for weeks about the missing title for a truck the defendant had sold to the victim. The argument continued at a nightclub in Minneapolis, where the two met up again on Sept. 6-7.

But Seesel told the jury that's just the way the two communicated -- each talking over the other in raised voices to make their points.

She said her client was no angel. He used and sold drugs, but he had no reason to kill his best friend, she said. She argued that Davis killed Timothy Williams in retaliation for a robbery Williams had allegedly instigated two years earlier.

Davis testified that he hid a .44-caliber revolver in the head-liner of the Explorer he drove when he, Shawn Williams and two others headed from a makeshift rap music studio in Owatonna, Minn., to the Minneapolis nightclub. Davis said he planned to sell the gun to Shawn Williams for $400. When they got to the victim's apartment, Davis said he first put the gun in his waistband, then dropped it on top of a shopping bag in the back of the Explorer.

After Shawn Williams loaded his basket into the back of the SUV, he grabbed the gun, turned and shot Timothy Williams, Davis testified.

The jury didn't buy it.

Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992