Charlotte clothier William Wilson says he simply wants his good name back.
A day after a judge found him not guilty on a domestic assault charge, Wilson spoke with Qcitymetro about what he described as a seven-month ordeal that left him feeling dejected but wiser.
Wilson, who owns William Wilson Custom Clothier on South Graham Street, was arrested in January after a former girlfriend accused him of domestic battery. The woman told police that Wilson pushed her several times near Romare Bearden Park in uptown.
The most humiliating part, he said, was seeing his name and face in local news reports.
On Tuesday, Mecklenburg District Judge Jena Culler found Wilson not guilty of the alleged assault.
For Wilson, the public allegation – and his resulting arrest – carried extended consequences. Not only did the accusation tarnish his business and his personal brand, he said, it also caused some associates to question his philanthropic commitment to eradicating domestic violence in the larger community.
For several years now, Wilson, who has said his mother endured years of domestic abuse, has raised money though a celebrity golf tournament to increase awareness of domestic violence. Some of that money has been used to award scholarships and other educational opportunities to abuse victims and their children.
Below are excerpts from Wilson’s interview with Qcitymetro. Some of his answers are edited for brevity and clarity.
Q. So you went to trial and was cleared. What was that experience like?
We went to trial. She (his accuser) testified, I testified, and the judge immediately ruled, as soon as my attorney and the DA finished their closing arguments. Within 30 seconds, the judge said “not guilty.”
Q. Did the judge explain her decision?
No. She said — and basically, I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t remember the exact verbiage she used — but she said, based on the evidence that I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, I find you not guilty.
Q. How did you feel at that point?
Man, relief doesn’t even begin to describe it. This has just been horrible for the last seven months. It’s just been horrible. It’s bad enough to be arrested — the arrest was bad enough as it was — but then I was the lead story on the local news, the lead story on the radio and on the front page of the paper, and then all the other publications (including Qcitymetro) picked it up. So my face and name were everywhere.
Q. Have any of them called you since your acquittal?
WBTV, which broke the story, said they are independently verifying everything, and they are going to do a follow-up story, which I appreciate… I’m not upset with any of the news outlets for what they did. I’ve spent a lot of time building my name, building my brand. So I understand that it’s going to get people to tune in, listen or read. I get that. All I ask is that everyone do what you’re doing — give me a chance to reclaim my name.
Q. How has this experience changed you, or what have you learned?
I understand why a lot of the (domestic violence) laws are in place… I still stand behind the laws that are there. I had to spend 48 hours in jail over something that I didn’t do… They called it a cool-down period. I was like, “this is nonsense,” but when I was in jail, I heard guys who did admit to domestic violence or assault…and they were like, “Man when I get out, I’m going to kill that whatever,” and all that stuff. So, I get the meaning of the cool-down period, and it probably helped save some lives. I just wish it took more than just a good story to get people arrested.
Q. Did this hurt your business in any way?
Oh, I’m sure it did, but I was still able, by the grace of God, to do business and still have my golf tournament. But the money we raised at the golf tournament was the least we raised since our second year. We still had a good event, but we just didn’t make the money that we normally make. The media did such a good job letting people know what happened that scholarship money was impacted. So people were indirectly affected by this.
Q. What do you want Qcitymetro readers to know?
That I’m innocent. That the stuff said about me wasn’t true. That’s really my thing, getting the word out there. Some people, no matter what you do, they’re going to feel the way they feel. I just want people to know that I went through a trial. I went through the whole process. I didn’t pay somebody to not show up. She testified. It was a female judge. It wasn’t like the good-old-boys club looked out for me or I got off because I was popular. We went though the whole process. And after going through the process, I was cleared and exonerated.