BUFFALO, N.Y. – A sex offender who infected at least 13 women with the AIDS virus should be locked up indefinitely under a civil law meant to keep the most dangerous offenders out of communities even after they complete prison sentences, the state said Wednesday.
The attorney general's office described 33-year-old Nushawn Williams in court papers as a mentally disturbed, sex-obsessed drug user who was unruly and sometimes violent during his 12 years in prison and would likely infect more women if set free.
He pleaded guilty in 1998 to charges of statutory rape and reckless endangerment after his behavior set off a panic in the small western New York town of Jamestown, where the dreadlocked convict was known as "Face" to the young, sometimes drug-addicted women and girls he charmed for sex.
Williams said nothing Wednesday during the first court appearance in the state's efforts to have him confined.
Under a 3-year-old statute, the state can lock up a sex offender indefinitely if it proves the person has a mental abnormality and is likely to offend again. Williams, whose criminal sentence ended April 13, would be held at a medium-security psychiatric facility, with his case reviewed yearly.
"I'm just waiting for him to come home. I feel like he did his time," his mother, Denise Williams, said after watching Wednesday's hearing in state Supreme Court. "Ain't nothing wrong with him."
In 1997, before Williams was charged, health and police authorities took the unusual step of making his HIV status public to try to stop further spread of the virus by Williams' partners — the youngest of whom was 13 — to others. As lines for HIV testing stretched out the door of clinics in Jamestown, Williams said he did not recall being told he had the virus while in jail in 1996.
He told a reporter in 1999 that he'd had sex with 200 to 300 partners before his arrest.
A psychologist's report filed as part of the civil confinement efforts describes Williams as a high school dropout who has never been formally employed, is preoccupied with sex and cares so little about others that he threw his urine on another inmate, one of 21 disciplinary offenses for which he was cited in prison.
He told the psychologist he did not intend to spread HIV to his partners.
"I was not trying to give them the highly infectious disease. I was selling drugs and moving too fast," Williams told Dr. Jacob Hadden of the state Office of Mental Health during a March interview at Wende Correctional Facility. "If I used protection, I wouldn't have it, either."
He said he would "stay in church" to ensure he doesn't offend again and planned to write three books about his life when freed. While prison records list him as Jewish, he said that was a ploy to get different food. He said he claimed to be Rastafarian when he first arrived in prison so he wouldn't have to cut his hair.
If released, Williams, who also goes by the name Shyteek Johnson, could offend again without the community knowing, Hadden said. Williams takes medication and has no symptoms, the report said.
"Mr. Johnson was having sexual intercourse several times per day and with many different partners. He targeted vulnerable individuals who were underage and/or drug addicted and used charm and coercion to secure sexual contact," Hadden wrote after the three-hour interview.
Two of the women who contracted HIV later had children born with the virus.
Daniel Grasso, the lawyer assigned to represent Williams just before the hearing, said the court would have to weigh Williams' needs against the risk to society in deciding whether he should remain locked up. He could also be placed on a highly supervised parole that would include treatment and monitoring, Grasso said.
"He's really stressed," his wife, Nina Williams, said after the hearing. "Everyone was waiting for him to come home. He was ready to get on with his life, start over."
A hearing is scheduled for May 6 to determine whether there is probable cause to hold Williams until a trial that would determine if he has a mental abnormality. The process could take months.
The state has civilly confined 123 sex offenders since the law was enacted.