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Hot Springs man sentenced to 15 years on child porn charge

Hot Springs defendant berates prosecutor in lengthy statement in court by Dale Ellis | June 22, 2022 at 4:03 a.m.
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A Hot Springs man who pleaded guilty in December to one count of attempted production of child pornography berated a federal prosecutor Tuesday during a nearly hour-long statement prior to being sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, claiming he was ignored in efforts to help authorities prosecute other crimes.

Jonathan Williams, 42, a former high school counselor from Malvern, pleaded guilty in December before U.S. District Judge Brian Miller after he was snared in an FBI sting operation in 2019.

According to court documents, an FBI undercover agent posted an online advertisement titled "Looking for like-minded family fun-no limits," on July 24, 2019, that was answered that same day by a user on the social network and online dating app "Grindr," with a username which was traced back to Williams.

At his sentencing hearing Tuesday, Williams alternately suggested he should be hired by the U.S. Department of Justice as an investigator after providing information regarding crimes committed by other inmates during more than two years of pre-trial detention at the Miller County jail and accused Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bryant of ignoring the information he provided and asking for a more severe sentence than what should have been called for under sentencing statutes.

Miller told Williams that if he were to provide substantial assistance regarding a conspiracy in which he had involvement, that could result in a lighter sentence were he to cut a deal with prosecutors for that information and the information result in successful prosecutions of co-conspirators. However, he said, because Williams acted alone in the crime he pleaded guilty to, there were no co-conspirators for which he could provide information.

"This here is a little different," Miller said. "Here, you're saying 'I'm seeing this in the county jail where I am, and this activity isn't connected to the crime I committed.'"

Williams said he had offered to assist the FBI by going on the dark web to track down a child pornography site he said he had stumbled across, but that he had never heard back from the FBI or the U.S. Attorney's office regarding his offer.

Bryant said she had not received any information from Williams that proved to be actionable during the time he had been jailed in Miller County.

"At this point I'm unaware of any information Mr. Williams has given us that would constitute substantial assistance," she said. "We're not going to give Mr. Williams a computer and let him go on the dark web."

As Williams read a rambling, prepared statement that ran 54 minutes in length before he was stopped by Miller, he said when he was first approached by the FBI he thought he was being asked to provide assistance in a child pornography investigation because of his computer expertise. He said it was only later that he realized he was the target of the investigation.

He described his online activities on the social media site Grindr as fantasy role-play with other consenting adults in which they would engage in what he called "age play," where a younger man would pretend to be the underage son of an older man for fantasy incest role-playing.

While in jail in Miller County, Williams said, he befriended a number of inmates, some of whom he counseled, others he said he helped educate, and others who he said confessed crimes to him that he said he reported to the U.S. Attorney's office.

"If this isn't enough to sway Ms. Bryant to offer leniency in some form," he said, "what must one do?"

Reading from the statement, Williams claimed to have risked his own personal safety to assist the government in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.

"Instead of a thank you I got punched in the face by a gang member and I have been subjected to lies circulating throughout the facility that I raped and murdered three toddlers," he said. "I spent four months locked down in isolation for 24 hours a day with no outside communication in a cell with a rapist and a murderer, all because I tried to help Ms. Bryant convict another sex offender."

Williams said instead of being prosecuted, he should be considered for a job with the Department of Justice. He said he would be willing to go anywhere in the country that Justice officials might wish to send him to investigate sex crimes against children, using his computer skills and other talents to assist in investigations.

"To prove that I am no danger to society, let me serve the Department of Justice in an official role," he said. "... I accept total responsibility for my actions, but the punishment should fit the crime."

At one point, as he was reading through his statement, Williams grew angry when he saw Bryant lean over and talk to Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ray White.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Bryant," he said. "Ms. Bryant, is my statement not important to you?"

"She has the right to talk to counsel," Miller interjected. "You've been going on for 40 minutes."

When Williams resumed, Bryant objected, saying he was going beyond the sentencing factors in the U.S. sentencing statutes and was making a legal argument.

"I am talking about sentencing disparities," Williams broke in, indignantly, "and that is one of the [sentencing] factors."

He then complained that his offense of "attempting to produce nude photographs of a non-existent child" had resulted in a statutory minimum sentence of 15 years, saying had he actually raped a child he would face only five years in prison.

"Why does Ms. Bryant insist on 15 years when I produced zero pictures of a real child?" he asked. "That's 10 more years than a child rapist."

Finally, after 54 minutes, Miller stopped Williams.

"How much more do you have?" he asked. "I want you to have your say, but you're getting into legal argument."

Williams concluded by saying he should have been prosecuted under a different statute that would have resulted in a substantially lower sentencing range, an argument Miller turned aside, explaining how the sentencing statutes called for a 15-year minimum sentence.

"Mr. Williams disagrees, but I have to go by the law," Miller said, then explained that despite the information Williams said he had provided to prosecutors about other inmates' actions, that information had not produced any results that Bryant could take to a grand jury.

"She's not in a position to jump up here and say, 'I make a motion,'" Miller said.

After sentencing Williams to 15 years, Miller agreed to recommend that he serve his time at a minimum-security prison, at the request of Williams' attorney, Tyler C.M. Tapp III of Hot Springs.

"Based off of his personality," Tapp said, "if he goes somewhere like West Memphis, he won't make it 15 years."

Print Headline: Ex-counselor sentenced for child porn


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