At times in trials a single testimony, sometimes a single, even isolated piece of evidence–a sound, an image–can be a turning point for or against the defendant. There were two such turning points today in the trial of 43-year-old Palm Coast resident Victor Williams. Both were haunting. Both went against Williams, perhaps fatally so for his defense.
One of them was a picture of the 16-year-old boy Williams is accused of raping, of the boy passed out on the front stoop of his home the morning Williams dropped him off after they’d spent the night at the older man’s house. The other was the boy’s mother’s testimony: 80 minutes of anguish, anger and pain that a year’s distance from the night in question hadn’t begun to diminish.
If Williams is convicted, it won’t be because of his victim’s testimony but because of the testimony of the boy’s mother, who filled in for her son–and for the jury–the trauma that he’d endured and that she’d felt, and who could speak as only a mother can of the sense of violation and devastation she had felt on her son’s behalf and that a young boy could not have–should not have–the words to express, should never have to think of expressing. That’s what his mother conveyed to the jury without a hint of a rehearsed testimony this afternoon, alternating between steeliness and tears before finally breaking down in the arms of Victim’s Advocate Knoeidia Hill as she left the courtroom, her testimony complete.
Williams is accused of inviting the 16-year-old boy to his home, drugging him and raping him. He’s not denying the sex. He’s denying the rape, in essence conceding to a statutory rape conviction, but not worse. Through a day and a half of trial until early this afternoon, the jury had not heard irrefutable evidence that it wasn’t a case of consensual sex, that the boy wasn’t using the rape claim as a scapegoat to avoid his parents’ wrath, that it hadn’t been part of the boy’s mode of hooking up with older men who could provide him pot and booze, and also sex, through Grindr, a hook-up app for gays, bi-sexual and transgender men.
On the stand for three hours on Tuesday the boy had come across as a child-like 17 year old, more guileless than calculating, though neither his superior intelligence nor his ability to deflect questions, either the prosecutor’s or the defense attorney’s, were in doubt. But he’d maintained throughout a detachment from the events he’d described the way teens do when they wall themselves off from a trauma they’d rather not be dealing with. He so much as said so on the stand, repeating what he’d once told his mother immediately after the night in September 2018 that he spent at Williams’s house. He hadn’t originally wanted to report the rape allegation because he wanted it “out of sight, out of mind.” It was at times as if he was watching himself testify on the stand, disbelieving that he was there, that he had to be there.
And to be there within a few feet of the man accused of raping him.
His mother’s disbelief was of an entirely different caliber. It was the disbelief of a mother face to face with the worst that could possibly happen to her child short of a lost life. It constricted her face and emotions, triggering memories clearly never far off, when Assistant State Prosecutor showed her the picture of her son that her husband had texted her when he found the boy in an unnaturally contorted position, passed out by the front door, the morning after the encounter with Williams. The picture itself was disturbing, given what the jury had learned had preceded it.
Williams’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Regina Nunnally, at one point attempted to show callousness on the part of both the boy’s parents: hadn’t the boy’s step-father actually taken a picture of his son, texted it to his wife, stepped over the boy and gone to work? He had. But the mother quickly parried off the jab: her husband could get fired from his job much more easily than she could if he were late. She told him to get to work, and immediately left her own workplace and came home.
But the turning point with that picture was the one detail that Clark only gradually led the mother’s and the jury’s eyes to, a detail never mentioned until now: Clark zoomed in on the dark shorts the boy was wearing. You can just sort of see an outline there, she tells the mother. You can see how his pockets are positioned.
“His shorts are on backwards,” the mother says, as if seeing it for the first time, her voice breaking again.
“Did you notice that that morning?” Clark asks her.
“Does [he] normally wear his shorts backward?”
She was holding back tears. “No.”
Of course not. And what the picture was saying more sharply than even the prosecution’s expert-witness doctor couldn’t have so lucidly said in more than an hour’s testimony that morning, was that the boy hadn’t the faculties or presence of mind to have put his shorts back on the right way after whatever he’d gone through that night. If in fact he had been the one to put them back on.
Combined with the utterly helpless posture of the boy on his own home’s stoop, it is the sort of detail with implications more arresting and comprehensible than any of the forensic analyses and gray areas of impairment that the state’s witness (or that of the defense, who’s yet to take the stand) could provide. The boy had not been able to describe his own state, either, beyond abstract descriptions of “blackouts” alternating with disquieting recollections of Williams on top of him or behind him. But his image spoke more loudly than anything until then, louder still than the University of Florida’s Bruce Goldberger, a forensic toxicologist who testified for the state about how and to what extent the boy could have been impaired on Xanax, pot and Four Loko alcohol that night.
And then there was the boy’s mother’s testimony.
Clark asked her to describe her family, hers and her husband’s jobs, where she lives: she is a young mother with two teen-age children, the boy being the oldest, she works in the school district, though further detail is unnecessary so as not to further violate the family’s privacy. She had immediately returned home to care for her son that morning, when he was all but catatonic.
“He smelled really bad, he smelled really sweaty,” she said, breaking down. It was not the way he normally smelled. She couldn’t bring herself to say more, but it was obvious there was more to say.
“Are you OK?” the prosecutor asked her.
“Yeah I’m OK,” she said assertively, mastering her composure. “I leaned over, standing over him, are you OK, why are you out here, where were you. I got nothing back. I could kind of just, I kind of tried to flip him over on his side. I could just flop him over.” He was not speaking. She had to drag his dead weight to his bedroom, putting him on his bed and laying next to him through several attempts to get him to talk. The most he did was mumble. When she returned home at lunch he was in the same state, the same position.
He finally came out for dinner, took a plate back to his room, barely ate, dabbled on the computer. There was tension in the house, roiling anger at the mystery of what had happened. Step-father and son weren’t talking. The mother went to sleep at about 10:30, only to be woken up an hour later by her daughter calling her to her son in the bathroom. He was screaming.
It was then that he told her he thought he’d been raped. He was remembering the night. He didn’t want the police called. He was ashamed. (He’d also been in contact with Williams by text even then, the defense attorney had shown on Tuesday.) He left the house to be with a friend for an hour–a girl picked him up– came home, and the next day agreed to go to the hospital, meet with the Child Protection Team and speak with detectives, as his mother did too, of course. By then she’d tracked down Williams and even spoken to him by phone twice.
The third time was in a “controlled call,” recorded by detectives and played this afternoon in court, a call of 12 to 15 minutes or so through which, lacing her language in the free-wheeling obscenities of a mother aggrieved, she attempted again and again to get Williams to describe where, how and how many times he’d had sex with her son.
By the time the call was played the mother’s testimony was over. Flagler County Sheriff’s detective George Hristakopoulos was on the stand, the last witness of the day for the state. He had headed the investigation and prepared the call, which includes the self-incriminating statement that makes it impossible for Williams to escape at least one or two felony charges. .
Williams only once said explicitly that “It was absolutely consensual, and we did nothing out of the ordinary.” That’s all the prosecution needs by way of an admission. But the rest of the time he came across as remarkably patient, unexcitable and polite even as the boy’s mother continues to berate him with volleys of wrathful language, a demeanor the defense will almost certainly play up in closing arguments to the jury.
But Williams also lies.
“So you wore a condom?” the boy’s mother asks.
“I always wear condoms. Always wear condoms. I always wear condoms,” he says.
“You have an STD?”
“No, I don’t.”
He does. He is HIV positive. He knew it at the time. That’s another point of contention in the trial, and a charge he faces: allegedly not telling the boy that he is HIV positive, a third-degree felony. (The rape kit was negative for indications of a rape, though Williams’s DNA was found on the boy’s underwear.)
He also denied giving the boy any pills, though the boy clearly had Xanax from a mason jar on Williams’s night stand, the prosecution showed. And he gave him pot. And alcohol.
On the phone, he would only tell the boy’s mother that he and the boy talked a lot and “did things.”
“What the fuck are things, like what are they? This is my child. I want to know what ‘things’ are,” she yells. He doesn’t budge. “I didn’t do anything to hurt your son,” he insists. He tells her he gave her all the information he could, that he’d been trying to tell her the truth, that “everything was decent.”
“You’re the only one being graphic on this phone,” he says. “Come on, let’s be adults. Come on. Come on.”
“You just fucked a 15 year old and you’re telling me to be an adult,” the boy’s mother tells him, her disbelief reaching its limit. She ends the call.
Danny Cog’s says
I worked for 5 years around SEX OFFENDERS & just by reading & listening to the testimony & the Conversation of the mother’s & the Defendant’s phone call I would say the defendant belongs in jail & then be Civilly committed for life. The crimes he committed & his age and the victim’s age is enough to justify his future behind bars & not to be able to be back into Society. Let’s not forget he’s carrying a deadly disease and luckily and hopefully the victim does not catch his disease from the defendants crimes? Good luck 🍀 to the victim and his family. 🙏🏻❤️🙏🏻 Prayers to Victim & Family and Friend’s. God Bless 🙏🏻❤️🙏🏻 . RET. State law enforcement officer in sex crimes no more.
Valerie C says
This POS should rot in hell. The boy needs support, love and counseling. Horrific experience for him. Truly heartbreaking. Rapists/ child moleaters like this should be castrated and left to rot in prison.
This guy is one SICK dude who needs to be in prison for life WO parole where he will receive his just rewards.
Are children cautioned about predators in school?
Outside Looking Out says
In school? I would think that would be a parent’s responsibility.
Mike Zamorski says
Thank the lord for mothers. Don’t let this one do it again!
Sadly, the Jury found him not guilty of rape. I swear, the most ignorant people in the planet serve on Juries. This was a child and, by law, unable to give consent. Therefore, unconsentual sex with this child is, by law, rape. How did the Jury not see that? Disgusting!
Yes, this abomination man belongs in jail for the rest of his life, he is worst than evil. Remember he is one of so many degenerates loose that must be locked up.