Third lawsuit filed alleging Johnson City cops covered for serial rapist

Published 3:30 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2024

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By Anita Wadhwani

Tennessee Lookout

A third lawsuit has been filed against Johnson City, its police force and more than two dozen officers by a woman who alleges cops took bribes to protect a serial rapist who drugged then pushed her from a fifth-story window during an attempted sexual assault.

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Mikayla Evans suffered life-threatening injuries that left her bedridden for two years after falling out of the apartment of Johnson City businessman Sean Williams in September 2020.

Johnson City police did not investigate, arrest, or charge Williams and intentionally destroyed evidence — and allowed Williams to destroy evidence — in exchange for cash, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit was filed last week in federal court in Greeneville, Tenn.

The actions and inactions by Johnson City police that followed Evans’ fall “shock the conscience,” the lawsuit alleges.

The officers’ conduct was “extreme, outrageous and not tolerated by civilized society,” it says.

The lawsuit, first reported by WJHL-TV, is the latest development in an ongoing corruption scandal that centers on allegations that Johnson City police took kickbacks to protect Williams, who is now linked to the sexual assaults of more than 50 women and sexual exploitation of children — assaults he recorded in video and photos.

The allegations of police corruption first came to light in 2022, when former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kateri Dahl filed a whistleblower suit against then-Johnson City Police Chief Karl Turner and the city, alleging her efforts to investigate sexual assault allegations against Williams were thwarted.

Last year, a lawsuit filed by nine women alleged an even wider corrupt scheme by Johnson City police officers to shield Williams after he was accused of sexual assault by multiple women.

The lawsuit has since become a class action on behalf of anyone sexually assaulted by Williams — and all victims whose reports of sexual assault were mishandled by Johnson City police over a five-year period. In recent filings the suit has introduced banking records as evidence of $2,000 weekly extortion payments from Williams’ companies to police and noted that attorneys in the case are cooperating with the Department of Justice in a potential criminal probe of the police department.

Williams, 52, is currently in federal custody awaiting trial on federal and state charges connected to sexual exploitation of children and a previous escape from custody.

Attorneys for Williams and Evans did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

“These claims are related to incidents from nearly 4 years ago, and the allegations are largely the same as those we continue to deny in other litigation,” an emailed statement from Johnson City said.

“We have yet to see any evidence that supports allegations of corruption by the Johnson City Police Department and continue to welcome any investigation that could dispel such claims,” it said.

A night out in Johnson City turns violent

The latest lawsuit outlines this sequence of events during the early hours of Sept. 19, 2020:

Evans had had a couple beers with friends in downtown Johnson City before heading to meet a friend at a nearby bar.

Instead of finding her friend there, she found him standing outside a downtown garage Williams owned. Loud music and lights were coming from the garage. Inside they could see Williams “partying” with two other people. Evans heard a voice from the garage saying “come on in.” She and her friend went in.

Within 20 minutes Evans noticed her speech begin to slur, the effects of being drugged, she later suspected. She didn’t remember being taken to Williams’ apartment across the street, but surveillance footage would later show Evans, her friend and Williams walking in.

Just after 2:30 a.m., Williams assaulted her. “Williams attempted to sexually assault (Evans) and during this altercation, pushed (Evans) out of his five-story apartment building window,” the suit said.

The friend fled. The lawsuit gives no further details about the friend.

Once at the hospital Evans was intubated and underwent multiple surgeries for pelvic, neck, skull and other fractures.

Evans’ mother made multiple requests of a Johnson City police officer who responded to the hospital for her daughter be tested for date-rape drugs. But “JCPD did not allow (Evans) to receive the testing.” The lawsuit also claims Evans’ rape kit was “not properly administered.”

A half a million dollars and a duffle bag of guns

While Evans was receiving emergency care, two Johnson City Police officers arrived at Williams’ apartment. Once inside, they could see video surveillance cameras positioned around the apartment, including a camera facing the window Evans fell from to the ground. Williams told officers the camera had not been recording.

Officers took a safe containing $500,000 in cash from the apartment, according to the suit. Much later, when the safe was eventually returned to Williams, it contained just $81,000 — missing funds the lawsuit alleges were likely taken as payment for not investigating Williams for the attempted murder of Evans.

The officers then left the apartment at Williams’ request, leaving the cameras and all other evidence unsecured.

A short time later — approximately 1.5 hours after Evans’ fall — officers returned to take Williams in for police questioning but allowed him to keep his phone, which was connected to the video cameras in his apartment.

At the station, Williams “manipulated data on his cellphone” while an officer watched and took no action, the lawsuit alleges. Williams was also allowed to keep his phone while left alone in an interrogation room. Then police let him walk home.

Once police returned to the apartment with the search warrant at 10 a.m. that morning, the video cameras officers had seen earlier had all been taken down. Police found them hidden in a closet under paper towels.

Williams and an accomplice had also used the time since he was let go to stash “firearms and illicit drugs located throughout the apartment” in a duffle bag on the roof.

During the search officers found on Williams nightstand a handwritten list scrawled with the first names of 23 women, under the word “raped,” a detail not noted in Evans lawsuit but described in the two other pending lawsuits.

“Had JCPD officers properly secured, seized, and searched the digital evidence in Williams’ apartment that night, they would have found evidence that Williams drugged (Evans) and caused her to fall,” the suit said.

The video evidence the officers did seize – four phones, four computers, three memory cards – weren’t forensically searched for evidence.

It would take another seven months before Williams faced charges stemming from the police search of his apartment that night, but they weren’t directly connected to what happened to Evans.

They were tied to the ammunition police found on the roof.

Dahl, the federal prosecutor who later filed the whistleblower lawsuit against Johnson City, obtained an indictment against Williams on illegal ammunition charges in April 2021.

Police botched their subsequent efforts to arrest Williams on those charges allowing him to flee, Dahl has alleged.

Williams was arrested two years later by campus police in North Carolina. The digital devices he had with him contained video and photographic images of Williams assaulting 52 women and three recordings of the sexual assaults of children. Among the women in the images are those who previously reported their sexual assaults to Johnson City police, who took no action, legal filings in other cases note.

Williams is scheduled to return to federal court July 16 on federal charges of escape and attempted escape from custody.

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