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Lawsuit: Business partner of alleged serial rapist made extortion payments to Johnson City police


Lawsuit: Business partner of alleged serial rapist made extortion payments to Johnson City police

May 22, 2024 | 7:01 am ET
By Anita Wadhwani
Lawsuit: Business partner of alleged serial rapist made extortion payments to Johnson City police
Eight Johnson City women who are participating in a lawsuit against Johnson City over its handling of rape reports spoke at a February press conference in Knoxville to push back on public statements suggesting victims shared fault (Photo: John Partipilo)

As parallel criminal and civil cases move forward, involving claims that Johnson City police conspired to protect a serial rapist, new allegations have emerged of a co-conspirator who laundered money in order to funnel extortion payments to officers.

The cases have gripped Johnson City for nearly three years. At their center are allegations that local businessman Sean Williams drugged and raped scores of women and sexually exploited children in a years-long sex and drug trafficking conspiracy – while local police took bribes to turn the other way.

Now, new filings in an ongoing lawsuit allege that Williams’ business partner funneled $2,000 in weekly extortion payments to Johnson City Police officers, using a complicated scheme of shell companies disguised as subcontractors in order to cover her tracks.

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Some of the transactions took place in 2022 while Williams was a fugitive and Johnson City police were supposed to be monitoring his companies’ transactions for suspicious activity as part of their formal investigation into his disappearance.

Instead, according to legal filings, some officers continued to cash in on Williams through his business partner, identified in court papers as “Female 4.”

Johnson City police officers also provided the business partner with police protection, conducting extra patrols of her home and business, according to emails between officers that were submitted in court.

Johnson City police officers “extorted Williams through Female 4, and she was the party responsible for opening shell businesses in order to launder funds to the officers,” the new filings allege.

An attorney for the unnamed business partner did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. In her legal response, the business partner said she had had a “personal relationship” with Williams between 2010 and 2017, but had “infrequent communications” with him since.

Her response, seeking to quash a subpoena for business, social media, text messages and other records, also argued victims’ lawyers were seeking an overly broad and burdensome array of documents. The woman has not been charged with a crime.

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The allegations are among the latest to emerge involving Williams, 52, who is currently jailed on federal charges for escaping and custody and child pornography production.

Williams also faces multiple state charges for child rape.  When he was arrested in North Carolina last year,  authorities found video and photographic images of Williams assaulting more than 50 women in his Johnson City apartment. Among them are victims who reported their assaults to Johnson City Police to no avail and have since joined a class action lawsuit against Johnson City, its police department and individual officers.

The lawsuit, filed last year, alleged a corrupt scheme by some Johnson City police officers to shield Williams after he was accused of sexual assault by multiple women.

Last month, court filings in the victims’ case alluded to a wider federal public corruption probe under way. The filing noted victims’ attorneys had been cooperating with the “prosecution team for the federal public corruption investigation of the Johnson City Police Department.”

A separate lawsuit, filed in 2022 by former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kateri Dahl, heads to trial later this year. Dahl filed suit against then-Johnson City Police Chief Karl Turner and the city, alleging her efforts to investigate sexual assault allegations against Williams were thwarted.

Johnson City officials have denied any wrongdoing.