Victor Williams was defiant to the end, calling his accuser a liar, claiming he never knew the boy was 16, claiming he never harmed the boy. The victim’s 50-minute testimony on Friday told a different story, describing Williams as a “monster” turned predator, and describing his own life since as a spiral into depression, drugs, suicidal thoughts, self-loathing, ruined relationships and bitterness out of which he was just emerging.
Last October a jury found Williams, the former 43-year-old resident of Palm Coast’s Big Bear Lane, guilty of unlawful sex with a minor–a 16-year-old boy who’d lived not far from Williams, and whom Williams had brought to his house for drinks and drugs a night in mid-September 2018 after the boy had snuck out of his house to meet Williams at a street corner. The two had hooked up months before on Grindr, the app for gay men looking for sex, and had met on a few occasions, but not for sex.
The jury found Williams not guilty of raping the boy, a charge that would have sent him to prison for life. It also found him not guilty of not disclosing his status as a carrier of the HIV virus: Williams, an activist on behalf of HIV-infected people, claimed he’d told the boy, a claim the boy denied at trial and on Friday.
Williams had previously been a caregiver for underage, disabled children. Months before the Flagler County charges, Williams was charged in Volusia County for seducing or luring a 14-year-old boy he’d traveled to meet. The boy turned out to be an undercover cop. Williams was tried in Volusia and found not guilty on that charge, claiming he’d traveled not for sex, but to counsel the boy in person and let him know the dangers of online hookups–precisely the sort of hook-up that led him to the boy in Palm Coast, though there’s nothing illegal about the Grindr app.
On Friday, Williams was sentenced to 10 years in prison–eight for the reduced, unlawful-sex charge and two years for drug charges, to be served consecutively. He had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison on the sex charge. Eight years was the minimum permissible under sentencing guidelines, which suggests a degree of leniency on the part of Circuit Judge Terence Perkins.
He was also sentenced to five years’ sex-offender probation once he’s released from prison, and he will be branded a sex offender for life. He has already served 484 days at the Flagler County jail. He’ll be credited for that time. Since he’s eligible for early release after serving 85 percent of his sentence, he could be released in a little over seven years, or by the time he’s 50.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark.
Aside from Williams speaking on his own behalf, the three-hour sentencing hearing also featured an expert witness who testified that Williams had only a 3 percent chance of re-offending, the victim’s mother, who became emotional on the stand, and of course her son, whom she’d discovered that morning, sprawled on her front stoop, after her husband had called in from work. The boy’s mother that day and in the 48 hours that followed turned into a police force of one, cobbling together a few clues from an initially reluctant son, hunting down Williams and getting him to confess to the sex with her son in a recorded phone call, though Williams would keep insisting that he’d never harmed the boy.
Williams’s defense effectively kept blurry how much and how the boy consumed alcohol and drugs at Williams’s house, though Williams was in undisputed possession of a substantial amount of narcotics in pill form. It was also undisputed that the boy had willingly used the Grindr app and dissimulated his real age. But Williams could never get away from the fact that he was almost three times the boy’s age, and almost three times his size, a detail the boy, recreating his state of impairment at the time of the encounter, described on the stand with writerly precision in one of the more painful segments of his statement: “I remember opening my eyes to bright lights. They were almost so bright that I wanted to close my eyes, and fall back into the deep slumber I had previously been in. But there was this loud sound. What was that loud noise, I thought to myself. Then I realized that it was a song, which kept on playing over and over again that God-awful night. I also remember a heavy pressure that pushed down on my body like a ton of bricks. Weighing me down to the point where I could not move, even if I wanted to. There was a rough-scruffy patch of what felt like facial hair that had just been shaved, and long matted-up dreads that were rubbing back and forth against my smooth, young face. Over the loud music I could faintly hear the bone-chilling whispers of his voice. ‘Are young going to be submissive for me?… ‘Do you like that?’ I could feel his eyes locked onto mine, and as I looked up, I noticed that grin on his face that he always had. Like he took pride and joy in what he was doing. As I felt the enormous weight of his body moving back and forth in a rabbit-like motion, and realized that I was naked somehow, it hit me like a truck what was happening to me. I was being raped.”
At trial the defense attempted to discredit the boy’s story, which he said he had not remembered until later, while taking a shower at his home and after a long slumber the day after the encounter. The attempt was successful, since the jury did not find it was rape. The victim’s statement was no less impactful as he went on toe describe almost moment by moment what he has since remembered and the consequences on his life: at one point he repeated the words the words “I hated myself” a dozen times as he enumerated the self-blaming reasons why, and the way he sank into depression and drug abuse. He described the way he imagined killing Williams if he could have confronted him, described how he had to take an HIV-inhibiting medicine in the aftermath of the encounter (he did not contract the disease), his struggles with numerous severe mental-health consequences, even an arrest, struggle with drug-addiction and being “trafficked” himself, and his many regrets–including at times regretting opening up about what happened to him. “I thought to myself, who would want to be around a person like me? I was damaged. Broken. Disgusting. Self-destructive.” He also blamed himself for the leniency of the punishment Williams was facing.
The psychological state of victims of abuse or rape is often described clinically in journal articles and press accounts, but more rarely heard first-hand, and of course even more rarely so when victim and predator are in the same room, a mere few feet apart.
“There would always be a piece of me missing. A piece that he took from me,” the victim said, revealing that he’d been in recovery for the past three months, “the longest that I have been clean since I was sexually assaulted.”
He also had bitter words for the defense, which he said made him feel like he was to blame: the defense had in fact attempted to portray the boy as a storyteller.
He said as much, though on his own terms. At the end of his statement, which ran to 27 typewritten pages, he said: “Sometimes when I go over it all in my head, I think of it like a story. And in my eyes, that’s the truth, because life really is just like a story. It’s one big book, with many chapters. Good ones. Bad ones. Sad ones. Happy ones. But the thing that makes life special is that it’s your book. It’s your story to be told, and nothing can take that away from you. And the best part is, you get to decide how certain parts end, and how other parts begin. Now that this chapter of my life has come to an end, I would like to say a few things. I was a victim [of] rape. But now that I am starting a new chapter of my life, I can say that I am a survivor. And now that I am a survivor, I can also say one more thing. I am free.”