Ex-Bay Area public defender worker charged with murder

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SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco Bay Area paralegal who once worked for a public defender's office in a second-chance program for recently released inmates has been charged with killing someone he thought was a police informant.

William M. Edwards appeared in court Tuesday on charges of conspiracy and murder in Contra Costa County Superior Court about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of San Francisco. He didn't enter a plea and was ordered back to court Sept. 18 for an arraignment and appointment of a lawyer.

The district attorney's office alleges that Edwards fatally shot a 22-year-old man on June 1 in Richmond, California. Investigators allege in court documents that Edwards wrongly believed he was gunning down a cooperating witness to an earlier gang-related shooting.

Edwards' victim resembled the witness and lived in the same neighborhood and drove similar cars, investigators said. They believe Edwards to be a longtime member of an Oakland, California, gang despite Edwards claims that he had reformed after serving 15 years in prison for manslaughter, investigators said in court records.

Contra Costa County's chief public defender, Robin Lipetzky, didn't phone and email messages Tuesday. Lipetzky told the East Bay Times Tuesday that the office hired Edwards for a temporary position in 2016 with grant money. Edwards left the office in October.

The Times reported that earned a paralegal certificate while in prison and told the paper in 2017 that he hoped to serve as an inspiration to others former inmates seeking work.

"I'm in a unique position, having gone through the fire and coming out on the other side, having made effective changes in my life, and now inspiring others to do the same," Edwards told the Times in 2017.

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