Jury Acquits Williams
The Floyd Press
By Doug Thompson
After two days of testimony and arguments, a Floyd County jury of seven women and five men began deliberations at 11:41 a.m. Wednesday in the trial of Sarah Williams on charges of carnal knowledge and one count of of a juvenile from Radford.
Williams, 35, testified that the last 12 months have “been the most difficult of my life” after she was charged with an alleged affair with a 16-year-old detainee at a Montgomery County juvenile detention center where she worked.
In a trial where testimony from a previous hearing in Montgomery County was invoked by both the prosecution and defense was used to try and discredit witnesses, the jury retired to consider testimony from 17 witnesses and a evidence that included photographs, Facebook posts, handwriting analysis and other materials.
The jury asked to take an hour break for lunch at 12:45 p.m.
In closing arguments, Special Prosecutor Douglas Vaught – Grayson County Commonwealth’s Attorney – and Defense Attorney Jonathan Rogers argued that they represented the victim of the case.
Vaught claimed Williams had used her position at the Detention Center to lure the juvenile – now 17 – into a relationship of sexual encounters at her home in Floyd while he was on home leave from detention.
Rogers said Williams was the real victim of the case, having been falsely charged by a “serial liar” with a history of making up stories. Rogers told the jury that Valught offered no collaborating evidence in the case.
Vaught argued that the case rested on whom the jury believed: The juvenile or Williams and the dozen witnesses that Rogers put on the stand.
Vaught presented only four witnesses, including the juvenile who claimed he had a sexual relationship with Williams during August and September of 2011.
But the juvenile’s testimony on times he said Williams picked him up at his grandmother’s house in Radford and drove him to her home in just north of Floyd for sex conflicted with time sheets at the juvenile detention center where she worked in Montgomery County.
The juvenile testified that Williams picked him up in her car and drove him to her home on the afternoon of their first encounter but time slips introduced by Rogers showed Williams was working from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. On that day, fhe time slips also showed Williams working the same afternoon and evening shift on the second day that the juvenile claimed he spent the same time period with Williams.
Other dates offered up by the juvenile conflicted with trips Williams made to New York to visit her father, who was in failing health and died later in 2011.
The juvenile testified that Williams first contacted him through Facebook to arrange a meeting. Rogers countered with a transcript of the juvenile’s testimony in a July 9 hearing in Montgomery County where he said the first contact came via a text message from Williams to his cell phone.
Investigators from both the Montgomery County and Floyd County Sheriff’s Department also testified that the juvenile, in initial interviews, said the first contact was via text messages.
Vaught did not present any copies of text messages to collaborate the juvenile’s testimony.
In his opening statement, Vaught said the juvenile had identified tattoos on Williams body that “could only be seen in intimate situations.” Floyd County investigator Steve Graham testified that the juvenile told him that Williams had a tattoo of “Tinker Bell” or a “fairy of wings” on her thigh.
Rogers introduced photos a tattoo of a mermaid on Williams’ hip but said no “Tinker Bell” or “fairy” tattoo existed on her thigh. Williams testified that photos of several of her tattoos had appeared on her Facebook page.
The juvenile, in his testimony, identified areas of Williams’ home in Floyd County. Williams testified that photos of the interior of her home had appeared on her Facebook page. Other witnesses, including her son, Michael McBride, a former husband and friends also testified that she had posted photos of her tattoos and home on Facebook.
In a motion at the beginning of the trial, Rogers sought to introduce the juvenile’s criminal record but Judge Canada upheld objections from Vaught that kept the record from the jury. Canada did allow Rogers to use the transcript from a July 9 hearing in Christiansburg where charges of contributing to the delinquency of the same juvenile were dismissed.
Rogers used the transcript to show conflicts between what the juvenile told the court on the stand in Floyd and what he claimed at the July hearing, including details of two sexual encounters between the juvenile and a teen-aged girl who testified that she succumbed to the juvenile’s advances while he was “consoling her” because her boyfriend had been ordered committed to the juvenile detention center.
Vaught in turn the same transcript to point out discrepancies stories told by Williams and a former husband.
The juvenile first denied, the admitted the sexual encounters with the teenager, described as the girlfriend of his best friend. Austin Alderman, another employee at the detention center, testified that the juvenile told him of the sex with the teen-aged girl and also said he warned Williams to “watch out” for the juvenile because he appeared “obsessed” with her.
The juvenile violated the terms of his home release and was “on the run” until arrested by deputies at the home of his grandmother in Radford. The juvenile’s father testified that he had reported his son missing after he failed to return home from a “late movie” in August 2011. The day of the “late movie” was the same date that the juvenile claimed Williams picked him up for the first trip to her home.
Deputies testified that the juvenile tried to hide under a bed and had to be dragged out “kicking and screaming.”
Williams testified that she reported the juvenile inappropriate and sexually suggestive language.
On the witness stand, William described a difficult childhood where she ran away from home at 14, lived for a while with a carnival, and returned home at 16 to successfully win legal emancipation from her parents.
“I’ve been on my own since 14,” she testified.
When asked by Rogers if she ever took the juvenile to her home, she answered “absolutely not.”
When asked if she ever had sex with the boy, Williams was equally emphatic, answering “not” or “absolutely not” each time she was asked.
Williams said she worked as a waitress and at other jobs to put herself through New River Valley Communication and earn certification as a counselor. She interned at the juvenile detention center and was later hired as an intake officer.
She testified that she wanted to become a counselor working with teenagers because she of her own troubled past.
Williams also served on the Floyd County Rescue Squad as a volunteer. She said she joined the squad after coming up on an accident involving a motorcyclist and was distressed because she did not have the training to help him. The rider died form his injuries.
Her “run partner,” Darin Gillenwater, testified that he trusted Williams “without question.” He was one of four “character witnesses” put on the stand by Rogers. The others included former rescue squad captain Jason Sschumann, former Floyd County deputy sheriff Laura Sparks and retired Lutheran pastor Dick Geisler, an active community volunteer.
Each described Williams as “honest” and said they did not believe the charges against her.
In his closing arguments, Rogers asked why the prosecution didn’t put any character witnesses on the stand. He suggested Vaught could not find anyone to vouch for the juvenile’s character.
Williams is currently on “administrative leave” from the rescue squad. She was fired from her job at the juvenile detention home because of the charges.