JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – First Judicial District Attorney General Steve Finney’s office has taken the lead on investigating sexual assault allegations against former Johnson City business owner Sean Willimas, Johnson City City Manager Cathy Ball said Friday.

During a media briefing to address the city’s response to a federal civil lawsuit, Ball answered questions pertaining to the status of the investigation into sexual assault allegations against Williams. You can watch the full briefing below:

Williams, who was arrested in North Carolina in April on drug charges, became a fugitive after investigators secured a warrant charging him with being a felon in possession of ammunition. Williams has been at the center of two lawsuits filed against the city: one by a former federal prosecutor and one by Jane Does claiming to be victims of alleged sexual assaults by Williams.

“After Sean Williams was arrested in North Carolina, we began working with the DA,” Ball said Friday. “As we moved further into it, our chief of police in conjunction with the DA agreed that it would be best and most appropriate for the City of Johnson City to not be involved in those investigations for the purpose of making sure the victims felt safe and that there was no thought of harm done to them or reason that they wouldn’t come forward.”

Ball said the decision for the JCPD to remove itself was made sometime after search warrants were filed by a district attorney (DA) investigator for devices in the JCPD’s possession that were seized from Williams’s apartment years ago, as well as for Williams’s DNA.

A recently filed affidavit by district attorney investigator Mike Little stated he had identified “approximately 52 female victims” who had been allegedly sexually assaulted by Williams from videos on devices found in Williams’s possession when he was arrested in North Carolina.

“I will say that we have complete confidence in our DA,” Ball said. “We know that they are diligently trying to pursue charges and to do the right thing and to work with victims of Sean Williams.”

According to Ball, both the JCPD and the DA’s office share the same desire to see anyone who commits offenses like the ones alleged punished.

“If we were to look at the things we’re united behind, we don’t want a predator in our community that takes advantage of people, particularly sickening – underage children.,” Ball said. “I have a 16-year-old daughter. It’s horrifying.”

She implored anyone who is a victim of sexual assault to bring it to law enforcement and to feel safe coming to the JCPD.

“If they feel like for any reason they can’t right now, go to the DA, go to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. We don’t want you to feel alone. It is never OK for someone to be raped.”

Ball referenced the DA’s office’s recent conviction of Christopher Wayne Bennett, who pleaded guilty to an aggravated rape in Johnson City and received a life sentence without parole, and called attention to Finney’s praise of the JCPD’s criminal investigations division for its role in the case.

“We know that the DA’s office is doing a tremendous amount of work to be able to hold that person accountable,” Ball said.