RALEIGH — A Fayetteville man who held two teenage girls against their will in a Cumberland County apartment last winter and forced them into prostitution was sentenced in federal court on Monday to 45 years in prison.
Christopher Jason Williams, 33, pleaded guilty on July 15 to two counts of sex trafficking of children. Following his active prison sentence, he will remain on supervised probation the rest of his life.
Williams’ case, heard in the Raleigh federal courthouse by U.S. District Court Judge James C. Dever III, has been touted as one that illustrates how criminal justice professionals are battling the sex-trafficking industry from a new perspective.
Women and girls who once might have been charged with prostitution are increasingly being treated as the exploited, abused victims criminal justice officials say a vast number of them are.
As this new understanding about the harsh dynamics of sex-trafficking develops, prosecutors across North Carolina not only have adopted a different stance on who the criminals are, but also better coordinate efforts with teachers, human service providers, families and other law enforcement agencies to help them identify such victims.
In the Williams case, a 14-year-old girl’s trip to a North Carolina school nurse helped launch an investigation that led to this week’s criminal court proceedings.
The girl had just escaped an ordeal in which, prosecutors contended, she had been forced to perform sexual acts for money while her captor was in the next room.
Fayetteville police, who also worked on the case and brought charges against Williams in state court, eventually recovered the 15-year-old girl from the attic, where she had been forced to hide.
Each girl had a troubled home life and had been with their detainer for weeks, perhaps months.
The teens told investigators that while they were with Williams, he beat them and threatened to kill them and their family members if they tried to escape.
While the girls were in such a state of confinement, prosecutors said, Williams posted partially nude photographs of them on various websites, advertising illicit services. Not only were the girls forced to have sex with the men directed to the Cumberland County apartment that Williams rented, they also were compelled to have sex with their captor and perform sexual acts on him while recorded on video.
Fayetteville police charged Williams in January with 53 counts each of statutory rape, statutory sex offense and indecent liberties with a child.
While Williams was held in the Cumberland County jail under a $1.325 million bond, federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of North Carolina, a 44-county region that stretches from Raleigh to the coast, charged him with the two counts of sex trafficking of children that he pleaded guilty to this summer in a deal that dropped multiple child pornography charges.
Thomas Walker, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, said his office planned to continue the joint approach that had worked in the Williams case.
“Sex trafficking, particularly of children, will not be tolerated in our community,” Walker said in a statement.
Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1