Ex-Cunningham staffer gets prison over sex with teen

Ex-Cunningham staffer gets prison over sex with teen

URBANA — A former staff member of the Cunningham Children's Home in Urbana will have to spend at least the next five years in prison for having sex with a child in the care of that facility.

Jason A. Williams, 31, of the first block of Briar Hill Drive, Champaign, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning before Champaign County Judge Jeff Ford to a single count of criminal sexual assault.

He was sentenced to six years in prison as a result of a plea agreement negotiated by Assistant State's Attorney Scott Bennett and his attorney, Ruth Wyman of Urbana.

Williams has to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence and register for life as a sexual predator. He was given credit for 134 days already served.

He pleaded guilty to a count that said he committed a sex act with the girl sometime between May 2012 and July 2013 while acting in a position of trust over her.

In return, Bennett dismissed 11 other counts of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, indecent solicitation of a child, traveling to meet a minor, grooming, harmful material, and sexual exploitation of a child. The Class 1 felony to which he pleaded guilty was among the most serious.

Bennett said that Williams had been employed at Cunningham Children's Home as a residential shift leader. His victim was a resident and a student there. Urbana police learned that Williams started as a teacher’s assistant at the Gerber School in October 2011 and in January 2013 became a shift leader. He was fired in July 2013 after the allegations of sexual impropriety were revealed.

It was that month when a foster sister of the girl overheard her in a sexually explicit conversation with a man and brought it to the attention of adults.

When interviewed, the girl initially denied being in a relationship but later admitted that she and Williams had been having a relationship, including sex, for more than a year. She was 14 when it began and had turned 15 not long before it was uncovered, Bennett said.

"She would run away from Cunningham and the defendant would pick her up to take her to locations where they could engage in sexual acts," Bennett said.

Those acts often occurred in his car, at Busey Woods, in a rental storage unit, at his home, and twice at motels, according to information the girl provided Urbana police.

Urbana detectives investigated to see if there were other potential victims at Cunningham or the Urbana church where Williams was a youth group leader but found no others, Bennett said.

Much of the police investigation involved telephone and text communications between Williams and the girl. Police found pictures of a naked young female, without her head showing, and nude pictures of Williams on his phone.

"Police were able to recover images he deleted from his phone," Bennett said.

Authorities could not confirm who sent the pictures to Williams' phone or where he sent the nude pictures of himself. However, Bennett said, the victim identified herself and Williams in the photos. Police also found nude pictures of a young woman on Williams' home laptop computer.

Both his phone and his laptop were forfeited as part of his guilty plea.

Williams was charged Aug. 1 and was released on bond the next day. A month later, the state took steps to increase Williams' bond after hearing testimonial evidence that he had been in contact with the victim in violation of his initial bond. Williams then went back into custody on a $2 million bond on Sept. 6 and has been in jail since.

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