A former USC professor of gender and sexuality studies who was once among the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives pleaded guilty Friday to flying to the Philippines to have sex with underage boys he met online, a conviction expected to land him in prison for five years.
Walter Lee Williams admitted before U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez to one federal count of engaging in illicit sexual contact in foreign places.
“I plead guilty, your honor,” Williams, who was brought into court in a wheelchair, told the judge.
Defense attorney Evan A. Jenness had no immediate comment following the hearing.
In exchange for his plea, federal prosecutors have agreed to recommend a prison sentence of no more than five years, 10 years of supervised release, lifetime registration as a sex offender and $25,000 in restitution to be divided between seven victims. Gutierrez set Dec. 15 for sentencing.
Williams, 65, was apprehended by Mexican authorities in the resort city of Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo in June 2013 — a day after he was added to the FBI’s list of its Ten Most Wanted fugitives.
Williams taught anthropology, gender studies and history at USC for about 20 years until his resignation in February 2011. Under the guise of academic research, he traveled in the Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast Asia to have sex with underage boys, according to the FBI, which reported having identified 10 victims between ages 9 and 17.
In 2010, prior to his travel, Williams engaged in webcam sex sessions with two boys ages 13 and 14 and expressed a desire to visit them in the Philippines. While in the Philippines the next year, he engaged in sex acts with both Filipino boys, as well as a 15-year-old, and took sexually explicit photos of one of them.
Williams fled Los Angeles about a week after returning from the Philippines, after he was questioned by the FBI.
In June 2013, a USC attorney provided the FBI with material Williams had donated to the university’s gay and lesbian archives which contained “lascivious visual depictions of minors,” according to papers filed last month in federal court.
Los Angeles Assistant police Chief Michel Moore said the case came to light about three years ago, when a Los Angeles resident concerned about the safety of children contacted authorities. Moore said “there are other victims who have suffered by this man’s actions.”
Before the arrest, the FBI received information about a possible location for Williams and asked Mexican authorities to apprehend him.
Richard L. Arlington, a onetime Palm Springs roommate of Williams’, was arrested last year in connection with the case. The 72-year-old Arlington, who shared illicit computer images of children with Williams, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and will be sentenced Nov. 17.
The FBI said that Williams has lived in Indonesia, Polynesia and Thailand.
Williams and Arlington were both members of the Buddhist Universal Association in Los Angeles, which espoused an ideology of “extreme sexual freedoms,” according to the FBI.
As he was wheeled back to his cell, Williams shrugged and smiled at several friends and family members in the audience.
— City News Service