Former USC professor Walter Lee Williams was arrested in Mexico on June 18, ending his time on the FBI’s Most Wanted fugitives list.
The arrest came after Williams was indicted for alleged sexual crimes against children. Williams, a former anthropology, history and gender studies professor, arrived in Los Angeles the following day.
According to Bill Lewis, assistant director in the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, a Mexican citizen recognized Williams’ picture in the newspaper and reported him to local authorities.
Williams has been charged with a four-count indictment that alleges sexual exploitation of children and traveling abroad for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts with children.
More specifically, the indictment alleges crimes with two 14-year-olds that Williams contacted over the Internet. The FBI said in a statement that Williams is being indicted for allegedly having “engaged in sexual activity via Internet webcam sessions with the boys and expressing a desire to visit them in the Philippines to have sex.”
When Williams returned from the Philippines in January of 2011, the FBI moved in. By the time they recovered photographic evidence from Williams’ laptop, he had fled the country.
Williams departed USC suddenly in February of 2011, when he fled to Mexico after learning of the investigation against him.
As a scholar, Williams gained a reputation as a renowned author in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender academia. Williams started the Gay and Lesbian Review in 1996, and worked to build the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at USC. During his time at the university, Williams also served as an adviser for several student organizations, including the Lambda Grads, Shades of Troy, and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Assembly.
According to the FBI, Williams used his academic work as an excuse to visit countries that turn a blind eye to child prostitution. Furthermore, renowned lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb, who published an article after the FBI listed Williams on its Most Wanted list, wrote that Williams was “well-known for making passes at his students at USC — some of whom made official complaints.”
The allegations of such a history are surprisingly well-documented. According to Ocamb, Williams was rumored to have slept with many of his underage sources for his award-winning book, The Spirit and the Flesh.
“I knew about Walter’s [alleged] pedophilia many years ago via [LGBTQ scholar] Harry Hay and others in the gay Native [American] community who Walter used as sources in his Spirit and the Flesh book. His reputation was not good back then,” Ocamb quoted an anonymous source as saying.
When asked to comment on any previous investigations into Williams’ conduct, University Counsel Kelly Bendell said that the university us looking into the allegations. “By law, personnel matters are confidential. However, I can confirm that the university takes this matter very seriously and cooperated fully with the FBI during its investigation,” Bendall said.
The university released a statement about the investigation earlier this summer.
“The FBI has informed us that at this time there is no evidence that any of his alleged illegal activities were associated with the university or took place on campus,” part of the release said.
The FBI also noted that none of the explicit images were stored on USC property and that an investigation of Williams’ office at the university revealed no evidence of criminal activity on campus.
Williams faces up to 100 years in prison if convicted as presently charged.
Follow Nathanial Haas on Twitter @haas4prez2036