Feds Probing Johnson City Police Over Serial Rapist Cover-Up Allegations

Photo: Eight Johnson City women who are participating in a lawsuit against Johnson City over its handling of rape reports spoke at a February press conference in Knoxville to push back on public statements suggesting victims shared fault. Photo Credit: John Partipilo

By Anita Wadhwani [Tennessee Lookout -CC BY-NC-ND 4.0] –

The Johnson City Police Department is the subject of a federal public corruption probe related to its handling of an alleged serial rapist, new filings in an ongoing class action lawsuit indicate.

Attorneys representing women who say police conspired to protect their assailant have turned over 520 pages of emails and attachments to the “prosecution team for the federal public corruption investigation of the Johnson City Police Department,” the filing said.

The Department of Justice has, for months, declined to confirm or deny any investigation, and the existence of a federal criminal probe had not previously been revealed.  WJHL-TV first reported on the new legal filing.

A federal investigation dramatically widens the scope of legal peril facing Johnson City, its police department and individual officers. Prior DOJ police corruption investigations in other jurisdictions have led to criminal prosecutions of individual officers and direct federal supervision of police departments.


The northeast Tennessee city, its police department and individual officers are currently named as defendants in two civil lawsuits containing explosive allegations that police engaged in a corrupt scheme to shield Johnson City businessman Sean Williams after he was accused of sexual assault by multiple women.

Since the lawsuits were separately filed in 2022 and 2023, new allegations have continued to emerge, among them that some Johnson City cops took kickbacks from Williams to look the other way even as more women came forward to report being sexually assaulted.

Police are also accused of trying to intimidate victims who continued to speak out.

In addition to a victims’ lawsuit, a former federal prosecutor Kateri Dahl filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging she was thwarted by Johnson City’s police chief and other officers in her efforts to investigate rape allegations against Williams.

Johnson City officials have denied the claims in both lawsuits.

Williams, 52, is now in custody facing child rape charges after an arrest on unrelated drug charges last year. Campus police in North Carolina, on a routine patrol, discovered Williams with large amounts of cocaine and methamphetamines in his car.

They soon discovered Williams had something far more sinister in his possession: electronic images of Williams sexually assaulting 52 unconscious women in his downtown Johnson City condo. Among the images were women who had previously reported their assaults to Johnson City Police.

Police also discovered images of Williams sexually assaulting two children — one under the age of 2. Thousands of images of child pornography were also recovered.

A fight over subpoenas ‘intended to chill survivors’

The revelation that lawyers for Williams’ alleged victims are cooperating with a federal criminal probe are contained in a short footnote in filings that seek to push back against subpoenas served on some of the women filing suit.

Attorneys for former Johnson City Police Captain Kevin Peters, named as a defendant in the lawsuit, sent a private investigator to the women’s homes and workplaces to serve subpoenas that are seeking years of their emails, social media messages, notes, text messages and other documents, including any exchanges they had with Williams.

All of the women who filed suit understood their identities to be confidential and were alarmed at the surprise visits, legal filings said. The women’s lawyers’ said they “appeared intended to chill survivors in their pursuit of justice” and noted that Peters had the opportunity to serve subpoenas through the women’s attorneys or the court instead.

The women’s attorneys — Vanessa Baeher-Jones, an attorney with California-based Advocates for Survivors of Abuse, Brentwood based attorney Heather Moore Collins with HMC Civil Rights Law and San Francisco attorney Elizabeth Kramer — referenced the federal corruption probe in the footnote that said they had shared hundreds of documents with federal prosecutors and were willing to do a search of those documents for information sought in the subpoenas.


Attorneys for Peters defended hiring the private investigator to serve subpoenas and said they were served on six women originally named as Jane Does when the lawsuit was first filed, along with the parents and sisters of a now-deceased alleged victim. The individuals have since been folded into the unnamed class of alleged victims who have joined the suit.

While unnamed members of a class action lawsuit are typically not served individually with subpoenas, Peters’ attorneys argued the women were active and public participants in the case and claimed that their attorneys had failed to comply with previous document requests.

“These individuals who filed a lawsuit against these civil servants, accusing them of corruption, and who claim a pattern of intentional discriminatory conduct based on their own experiences, are not immune from discovery in this case,” Peters’ attorneys wrote, citing a press conference at which the women appeared in March.

The press conference was called only after the federal judge in the case granted a one-time exception to court rules barring public comments in the ongoing lawsuit after Johnson City’s city manager made disparaging remarks about the female plaintiffs.

Cathy Ball, the city manager, told reporters that the women were partially “at fault” for their assaults because they “consumed and partook of illegal drugs.”

2 thoughts on “Feds Probing Johnson City Police Over Serial Rapist Cover-Up Allegations

  • April 23, 2024 at 10:23 pm

    “Partially at ‘fault’ for their assaults” because they consumed alcohol and drugs? Cathy Ball needs to check herself. NO man has the right to rape a woman because she is unconscious!! Just wow!! She sounds like someone from one of the big liberal WOKE crazy cities being paid off by Soros or something. Wow!!

    • April 28, 2024 at 1:42 pm

      So true! I think of Tiger Woods and Bill Cosby and all of the women that accused them of rape with drugs and alcohol included.

      I can’t believe she would say that!


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