JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – Former Johnson City businessman Sean Williams, 51, now faces possible life in prison after a Washington County grand jury indicted him on multiple counts of child rape and sexual exploitation of a minor Monday.
One of three cases charges Williams with aggravated rape of a child for an alleged incident on Dec. 23, 2020 involving a child under three years of age. If convicted on that charge, Williams would face a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A news release from First Judicial District Attorney General Steve Finney states Williams — who was also indicted separately Monday on federal child pornography charges — faces counts from three separate cases.
The 20 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, which involve three different alleged victims, also appear to relate to child pornography. They accuse Williams of “knowingly using” the alleged victims “to participate in the production of material that includes the minor engaging in sexual activity” in some cases and “engaging in simulated activity” in others.
Indictments show that one case dates back 15 years — alleging Williams raped a child two different times at some point between May 1, 2008 and July 19, 2011. That alleged victim was between the age of 3 and 13. Williams is also accused of four counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation in that case.
A second case dates to May 20, 2020 and has the most sexual exploitation counts — a total of 12. It also alleges Williams committed aggravated sexual battery three times against a victim who was less than 13 years old.
Matching the three counts of sexual battery, three of the 12 counts of sexual exploitation reference Williams allegedly producing material that includes the victim “engaging in simulated sexual activity that is patently offensive.” The other nine exploitation counts reference “simulated sexual activity.”
That case’s date matches exactly one of three dates on which Williams is alleged in Monday’s federal indictment to have engaged in production of child pornography. Another of the dates is January 2009, within the date range of the first state charge.
The aggravated rape of a child case allegedly occurred Dec. 23, 2020. It is accompanied by four aggravated sexual exploitation counts — one allegedly involving actual sexual activity and the other three involving simulated sexual activity.
The final date also matches up with the third count in the federal indictment.
Timeline connections to Kat Dahl lawsuit
The Dec. 23, 2020 date places the third allegation squarely in the middle of a period when former assistant U.S. Attorney Kat Dahl — at least according to a June 2022 federal lawsuit she filed against Johnson City and the Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) — was pressing JCPD to investigate Williams for potential sexual assaults.
News Channel 11 has been covering civil and criminal cases involving Williams since Dahl filed her suit. Dahl’s suit claims she was brought into a potential federal case against Williams on Nov. 13 2020, less than two months after Mikayla Evans suffered a life-threatening fall from Williams’ fifth-story apartment window.
During a search of Williams’ apartment in September, officers allegedly recovered not just ammunition — the cause for bringing Dahl into the case — but also “a handwritten note from (Williams’) nightstand with the word ‘Raped’ written atop a list of 23 women’s first names in black ink.” Williams also had been named as a suspect in two JCPD police reports for sexual assault.
Dahl alleges that she pressed the JCPD and its top brass to build a broader case partly due to “substantial evidence of sexual assault.”
Her suit also claims she began seeking a federal search warrant for Williams’ computer and phone SIM card in early November 2020, “but Johnson City officers did not provide needed documentation until mid-January 2021.”
Dahl eventually took out a federal ammo indictment on Williams, in April 2021. JCPD officers attempted to serve that several weeks later, on May 5, 2021, but failed to apprehend Williams, who then absconded and was a fugitive for nearly two years.
As News Channel 11 reported last month, digital files discovered when Williams was arrested by Western Carolina University police on April 29, 2023, allegedly revealed video and images of Williams raping more than 50 women in his Johnson City apartment.
One of those alleged rapes found on Williams’ devices recovered in North Carolina occurred in late November 2020 and was reported to police by the alleged victim, according to a search warrant filed by First Judicial District Investigator Mike Little.
Two weeks after that alleged rape, on Dec. 8, according to Dahl’s suit, she met with JCPD Chief Karl Turner (now retired) and Capt. Kevin Peters (also now retired) and “expressed her alarm about the new evidence as to (Williams) … (and) expressed her concern that there were additional rape and sexual assault victims who might come forward.”
In its answer to that section of Dahl’s suit, JCPD’s lawyers acknowledge such a meeting took place, but say Turner and Peters had a different opinion: “that the best course of action would be to obtain the federal court indictment (felon in possession of ammunition) which would then facilitate the investigation of the other potential criminal charges.”
The aggravated rape of a child is alleged to have occurred two weeks after this meeting.
Investigations are continuing with respect to potential adult victims of Williams, according to Thursday’s release from the DA announcing the child rape and exploitation indictments.
Williams faces 15 to 30 years in federal prison on each of the three child pornography counts. The two child rape (not aggravated) charges each carry a minimum 25-year sentence. The three aggravated sexual battery charges carry 8 to 30-year sentences if convicted, as do the 20 especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor charges.
No court date has been set for Williams’ state charges. He has been in federal custody since a few days after his April 29 arrest, when he was charged with more than a half dozen drug trafficking counts.
His 2021 felon in possession of ammunition charge is set for trial Nov. 2 in Greeneville. He also faces an attempted escape charge during that trial after he allegedly tried to escape from the Washington County Jail in late July. He was transferred to the Laurel County, Ky. jail after that.
Mike Little investigated the child rape case along with agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.