In a lengthy letter filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, “The Wire” creator David Simon asked a judge to offer leniency in the sentencing of a man charged in connection with the overdose death of actor Michael K. Williams.
Simon, a Baltimore resident and former Baltimore Sun reporter who has also created television series such as “We Own This City,” “The Deuce” and “Treme,” wrote the letter on behalf of 71-year-old Carlos Macci, who pleaded guilty this year to narcotics conspiracy in conjunction with Williams’ accidental overdose. Williams, who played Omar Little in “The Wire,” died in September 2021 at age 54.
Federal prosecutors say Williams died from using fentanyl-laced heroin. They charged four men with narcotics offenses in connection with his death.
Simon and Williams met in 2002 when the actor was cast for the part of the notorious stick-up man, according to Simon’s letter, and Williams confided in members of the cast and crew about his struggles with drug addiction during production of the show’s five seasons. But he also spoke about redemption, Simon said, and devoted much of his life offscreen to engaging with people who were formerly incarcerated and advocating against the war on drugs. The two remained friends after the show concluded.
“Michael would look at Mr. Macci and hope against hope that this moment in which he finds himself might prove redemptive, that his remaining years might amount to something more, and that, by grace of love and leniency, something humane and worthy might be rescued from this tragedy,” Simon wrote, adding that Macci is “largely illiterate” and lives with substance use disorder.
According to Simon, Williams spoke bluntly about his inner demons and the country’s overreliance on drug prohibition as a solution to addiction. During the filming of the third season of “The Wire,” Williams told a producer about his struggles with substance use and agreed to accept help. A crew member began accompanying Williams offset to ensure “some distance” between Williams and temptation. “We watched, relieved and delighted, as Michael Williams restored himself,” Simon wrote in the letter, which he shared Friday on his personal blog.
In another instance, Simon and other members of the crew discovered one of Williams’ suppliers had “some proximity” to the film sets, but Williams insisted the person not be punished. “Michael insisted that the matter was to be addressed by changes in his own behavior, rather than anything punitive to anyone else,” Simon said. “Michael always declared that he was responsible for himself, that the decision whether to use, or to cease using, would always be his own.”
Simon wrote that Williams, more so than other actors made famous by “The Wire,” took heed of the show’s message to challenge mass incarceration and drug policy, and “continued to deliver on that message in word and deed.” He wrote that Williams “would fight for Mr. Macci,” just as he fought for himself.
Macci’s sentencing is scheduled for this month.