West Mt. Airy man guilty in ear-bite attack on cabbie

Posted: April 29, 2011

Rejecting an insanity defense, a Philadelphia judge Friday convicted a West Mount Airy man of assault and robbery charges in a 2008 incident in which he threatened to kill a cabdriver, then bit off part of his ear during a scuffle and stole the cab.

Kenneth Williams, 50, was found guilty by Common Pleas Court Judge Willis W. Berry Jr. after a two-day nonjury trial.

Assistant District Attorney Jill Fertel said Williams faced a four- to five-year prison term under state sentencing guidelines. Barry set sentencing for June 23.

In testimony Thursday, Quaker City Cab driver William Millburn recounted a harrowing tale of what began as a routine predawn pickup and ended after he was menaced with a knife, sped off the wrong way on Broad Street, and fought with his passenger, losing part of his right ear, before being dragged away hanging onto his stolen cab's rear bumper.

"I don't know why I hung on to the bumper," said Millburn, 61. "It was a little rough. He dragged me over cobblestones and now I have bad knees."

Millburn said he picked up Williams about 5:50 a.m. May 11, 2008, at Broad Street and Hunting Park Avenue in North Philadelphia and was told to go south to Broad and Allegheny Avenue.

They drove only a few blocks, Millburn testified, when Williams told him to make a quick left onto tiny Colwyn Street.

Millburn said he refused because such a ruse has been used to lure cabdrivers to a secluded area where they could be robbed.

Williams, who Millburn said had been cordial, suddenly erupted, pulled out a foot-long knife, and threatened to kill him.

As Williams punched at him through the open slot in the cab's clear safety partition, Millburn said, he floored the cab and drove south in the northbound lanes of Broad Street.

"I ran every light, going about 50 miles per hour, hoping the police would stop me," Millburn testified.

At Erie Avenue, Millburn continued, he stopped and jumped out of the car, screaming for help. But Williams also got out and tackled him, and they began fighting.

Williams took Millburn's wallet, got into the cab, and drove away as the cabbie grabbed the rear bumper.

Millburn said he was dragged over the cobblestones at Broad and Germantown Avenue before William hit something, got out, and ran.

It was only afterward that paramedics found the missing part of Millburn's ear on the street and sewed it back into place at the scene.

"It didn't take," Millburn said, adding that he spent 10 hours at Temple University Medical Center being treated for the injuries to his ear and knees.

Millburn responded testily to questions from defense attorney F. Michael Medway, who asked about inconsistencies in his earlier police statements.

"All I know is he bit a piece of my ear off. That's bad enough, I think," snapped Millburn.

Williams did not testify, but Medway brought in forensic psychologist Steven Samuel, who testified about Williams' history of mental illness, failure to take prescribed medicines, and use of crack cocaine and alcohol.

Samuel testified that Williams claimed to have been paranoid and heard voices ordering him to rob the cabbie and then kill himself.

But in questioning Samuel, Fertel argued that Williams was a malingerer who exaggerated his symptoms and purported past suicide attempts to try to evade responsibility for the incident.

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

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