Williams says he was wrong to have approached the children on the boardwalk but still insists they let him have the pizza. He laughs at how friends tease him about his notoriety when they go out for pizza.
"I make sure people are around when I ask for it," he said.
Williams has struggled to find steady work. No one, he says, wants to hire a felon.
"I paid my debt to society. . . . How long do I have to be punished for?" he asked. "I feel like they want to see me back in jail."
Williams says the three-strikes law was never meant for someone like him, despite his record, and that he would be determined to stay straight even without the threat of a life sentence. But without a job, he fears he might one day slip up.
"By the grace of God, I was given a second opportunity," he said. "But every day that goes by becomes harder."
Gravlin, the prosecutor, retired in 2003. He recalled feeling conflicted when Williams asked to have his sentence reduced. Gravlin said he felt obliged to argue against it so the judge could consider both sides. But he also felt that Williams should serve less time.
"In hindsight . . . justice was done," Gravlin said.
Mary and Keith Larson said they trusted in the courts to do the right thing. They harbored no hard feelings toward Williams, they said, but hope he keeps out of trouble.
"If he's walking on eggshells or thinking, 'I need to behave myself,' that's good," Mary Larson said. "We want people behaving themselves."
Times researcher Maloy Moore contributed to this report.