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Press Release

Charleston, Ill., Man Charged with Child Sex Crimes, Ordered to Remain in Custody

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of Illinois

URBANA, Ill. – U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric I. Long today cited the extreme danger to the community posed by defendant James L. Williams, 39, of Charleston, Ill., and granted the government’s request that Williams remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. Williams, of the 500 block of N. 7th St., made his initial appearance in federal court on Friday, Aug. 14, following his arrest on an indictment that charges him with sexual exploitation of children to produce sexually explicit images from January 2017 to Nov. 22, 2019. In addition, Williams is charged with distribution and possession of child pornography.

During today’s detention hearing, the government proffered additional facts about the defendant and his alleged conduct in requesting that Williams remain in custody. The government alleged that Williams extorted multiple minors in Illinois and other states to produce child pornography. To gain access to girls as young as 10, Williams allegedly impersonated a female minor on social media sites, including Facebook and Snap Chat. Williams then coerced minors to produce child pornography of themselves and distributed the images to others. The government alleged that Williams extorted girls to give him additional images by threatening to share the images with others, and that on at least four occasions, Williams distributed the images to others. Williams also allegedly engaged in sexually graphic chats with other minors and discussed meeting them for sexual activity.

A trial date of Oct. 13, 2020, has been scheduled before Senior U.S. District Judge Michael M. Mihm.

If convicted, the statutory penalty for each of the two counts charged of sexual exploitation of a child is a minimum 15 years in prison and up to 30 years. For each of the three counts of distribution of child pornography, the penalty is five to 20 years in prison; and for possession of child pornography (one count) the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison. Each of the counts carries a fine of up to $250,000, special assessments of $5,000 per count under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, and $17,000 to $50,000 per count under the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2018.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson is representing the government in the prosecution. The charges are the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Charleston Police Department.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. 

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide Department of Justice initiative to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

Updated August 17, 2020

Project Safe Childhood