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A former Lafayette school teacher who admitted viewing graphic sexual images of a 16-year-old Columbus girl over the Internet faces a possible 10-year federal prison sentence.
That is part of a plea agreement discussed between federal prosecutors and Darren R. Williams, defense attorney Ashwin Cattamanchi said.
The plea deal also would carry 10 years of supervised probation to start after Williams, 26, is released from prison, his court-appointed defense attorney said. Williams is charged with one count of possessing child pornography.
Prosecutors had discussed charging Williams with production of child pornography, which would have carried a minimum sentence of 15 years in jail, but the government decided not to press any additional charges once Williams agreed to plead guilty to possession of child pornography, court filings show.
Family members said Williams, a former music teacher and accomplished trombonist, has been undergoing counseling with help of a church pastor. Records indicate that he has voluntarily surrendered his teaching license to the state Department of Education.
Williams, who lost his high school teaching job as a result of the federal charge, agreed to the plea arrangement after admitting he became addicted to viewing adult pornography when he was in college.
He was initially arrested in August 2012 by Columbus police, court records show, but the federal pornography case later took precedence. Williams was arrested on the federal warrant in mid-January.
A sentencing memo filed by Williams’ court-appointed lawyer describes the Butler University graduate and former Purdue University marching band staff member as a bored, lonely man in his early 20s who gravitated toward Internet chat rooms in the summer of 2012.
How it began
He eventually struck up a video-streaming relationship with a 16-year-old girl on one site that pairs people at random, allowing them to start one-on-one conversations.
He would go on the website that advertised itself as a “great way to meet new friends,” Cattamanchi wrote in the court filing.
Most of the other people on the site were people in their mid- to late teens or early 20s. The attorney said Williams generally identified himself either as a 20- or 25-year-old man when he struck up conversations online.
“He chatted with approximately 200 people on the website, almost all of whom were 18 years or older. Of those under 18 years, he chatted in a sexual manner with the (16-year-old girl, identified in court records only as Jane Doe) and briefly in a separate instance with a 17-year-old female. In the entirety of his life, Mr. Williams has solicited and viewed unlawful images only of Jane Doe,” the defense lawyer’s court filing says.
Early on, Williams and the Columbus girl learned that they both lived in Indiana, and their interactions continued, Cattamanchi said. While Williams told the girl initially that he was 20 years old, shortly afterward he let her know that he was 25, he said.
The pair used a video application that permitted them to see each other while chatting, the attorney said.
Williams eventually viewed “short, live video streams” of the girl that were sexually graphic, the attorney said, adding that “Williams is not a predator; he was not on the prowl for young teenagers. He used poor judgment in interacting in a sexual manner online with Jane Doe.”
Columbus Police spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said local investigators initially arrested Williams for disseminating inappropriate material to a Columbus teen, and that information was shared with federal authorities.
Court records show Williams first had contact with the 16-year-old in July of last year.
Relatives, church pastors and Williams’ parents all sent letters of support to U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen, seeking a more lenient sentence for Williams.
Cattamanchi said Williams “is keenly aware that he had no right to view via the Internet nude images of Jane Doe’s body. He accepts his fate before (the) court, but knows that he is on a straight path now.”
The attorney also said Williams is “deeply sorry” and “sincerely apologetic” to Jane Doe and her family for what happened.
Relatives, others lend support
Matt Sims, senior pastor of Charity Baptist Church in Lafayette, said Williams has repented since the Jane Doe incident and an offer of mercy from the court “would not be wasted on him.”
He said other church members have rallied around Williams with their moral support.
“When Darren was arrested, he contacted me and admitted his wrongdoing. He did not try to hide it or run from it,” the pastor said.
“Darren came before our church and confessed and asked for forgiveness.”
“My brother is a good man who made a mistake. He needs a chance to bounce back from this offense and to put the past behind him. We all mess up. He needs to be bettered from this incident, not be forced to deal with it every single day as a reminder within four cell walls. That won’t help him or the community,” wrote Tiffany Williams, his sister and a civil engineer with the U.S. Air Force.
“Since the incident happened, I have noticed a renewed love for God. Darren is faithful to reading his Bible and praying,” said parents Dwayne and Penny Williams in a letter filed in the court record Tuesday.
“We know what Darren did was wrong and feel that he will never do anything like this again. This is not who he is as a person,” the parents wrote.
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