Chief District Judge Curtis Gomez accepted the change of plea, which, according to U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe, could send Williams to jail for up to 20 years and require him to pay $250,000 in fines for operating and participating in a criminal enterprise whose members and associates engaged in illegal activities, including bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud.
At the change of plea hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Lindquist outlined the following allegations, which he said the government would have proven had the case proceeded to trial:
- In September 2009, Ace Development, a company belonging to Williams' father and in which Williams had a financial interest, received a payment of $134,140 from the V.I. government. Williams deposited the check into an Ace Development bank account and withdrew $24,000 in cash. He put $10,000 of that into an envelope and later handed the envelope to V.I. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls "as a bribe for the Department of Public Works giving Ace Development work in the future."
- In September 2007, Williams influenced and promoted legislative action in support of the Raphune Vistas housing project. In exchange, Williams asked for and received a $2 million contract for Ace Development to work on the project; the company actually received about $789,000 of that contract.
- In 2007, Williams and senior adviser Garry Sprauve solicited a $10,000 bribe from the developers of the Tutu Park Mall wind turbine project. Williams and Sprauve instructed the company to make 10 contributions of $1,000 to Williams' campaign, leading the company to believe it was making a legitimate political donation. The company sent the money via U.S. mail, but Williams never reported it as required by V.I. law. Williams later met with the developers in his legislative office and solicited a $25,000 bribe to further promote the project.
- In summer 2010, Williams offered to give a staff member a $24,000 salary increase in exchange for the staffer splitting the raise with Williams. The unnamed staffer declined. Williams then made the same offer to Sprauve, who accepted. More than $17,000 of the money went for Williams' own personal use.
- In 2007, Williams began employing a staff member whose "primary duty" was to complete various assignments for coursework toward Williams' online degree through the University of Phoenix. When the staff member left, Williams had chief of staff Kim Blackett pick up where the former staff member left off. Williams also submitted false documents when applying for student loans worth $12,500 through Sallie Mae.
"I plead guilty, your honor," Williams told the court after Lindquist read the allegations.
All of the allegations were incorporated into one count of a nine-count federal grand jury indictment charging Williams, Sprauve, Blackett and Ace Development. Sprauve, Blackett and Ace Development have pleaded not guilty.
Prior to accepting Williams' plea, Gomez asked Williams whether he understood and agreed to certain implications of the plea. The judge told Williams a felony conviction could infringe on certain civil rights, including his ability to run for office.
Anyone with a felony conviction is barred from being a member of the V.I. Legislature, according to the Revised Organic Act of 1954.
Gomez also said the plea agreement will require Williams to accurately and completely identify all of his assets to the court and to forfeit all property involved in the transactions to which he pleaded guilty.
Williams, 34, said he understood and accepted these, and other, conditions.
Williams' attorney, Gordon Rhea, asked the court to keep Williams' current conditions of release - an unsecured $250,000 bond - in place until his sentencing.
Gomez agreed to do so.
Prior to the hearing, Rhea released written remarks stating it is Williams' hope "that when the full story is finally revealed, justice will be done."
Rhea said after the hearing that he could not elaborate on "the full story," but his comments and the prepared remarks both point toward a widely held belief that Williams may be working with prosecutors in other investigations.
"Senator Williams is looking forward to being an instrument in bringing good, clean government to the Virgin Islands," Rhea said. "It's his hope that others would do the same."
FBI affidavits associated with Williams' case mention, in addition to his co-defendants, two other individuals tied to the V.I. Legislature: former Sen. Louis Hill and Franke Hoheb, who was chief of staff to former Sen. Celestino White Sr.
Sharpe declined to comment following the hearing.
Williams' sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 25 at 9:30 a.m.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.Former V.I. Senator Alvin Williams Jr. pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony racketeering charge related to his three terms in the Legislature. His attorney, Gordon Rhea, released the following written remarks prior to the hearing.
"Senator Williams has pled guilty.
He admits that he has done things that are wrong.
He does not offer excuses, or blame others.
He accepts responsibility for what he has done.
He has let the public down, and he apologizes for it.
Senator Williams' plea stands as a refreshing alternative to what we have seen in the past.
His candor and acceptance of responsibility is a welcome repudiation of the culture of corruption.
Here is a politician admitting that he did wrong.
Here is a politician confessing his sins and saying, loudly and clearly, 'We can do better.'
There are those who will demonize Senator Williams.
That is understandable.
He violated the public trust.
But there is another side to Senator Williams.
It took real bravery for him to step forward and say, 'Here is what has been occurring in our government, and I was part of it.
It is wrong, it must stop.
I am ready to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.'
While what the senator did in the past is reprehensible, what he has done today is commendable.
His forthrightness and candor should be a model.
It is his hope that today will plant a seed for change.
It is his hope that when the full story is finally revealed, justice will be done."
Originally published in the Virgin Island Daily News