A civil trial to determine whether convicted sex offender Nushawn Williams remains imprisoned will be closed to the public, a State Supreme Court justice ruled Wednesday.
The order followed a stunning claim Tuesday that Williams, who was accused in the mid-1990s of infecting 13 young women with HIV, does not have the virus that causes AIDS.
“It’s time we start slowly setting the record straight,” attorney John R. Nuchereno said after Wednesday’s court proceedings in front of Justice John L. Michalski. “He never had it for a moment. It’s not my contention. It’s the result of a University of Massachusetts Medical School examination of his blood.”
The State Attorney General’s Office wants to keep Williams confined under the state’s mental hygiene law, arguing that he’s a sexual predator likely to infect others with HIV.
Williams pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree (statutory) rape and one count of reckless endangerment in 1999, after authorities said he infected at least 13 young Chautauqua County women, including a 13-year-old girl, with the virus that leads to AIDS.
He served a 12-year sentence that ended in 2010, but he continues to be held in Wende State Correctional Facility under a state law that permits civil confinement of sex offenders.
Williams, 36, now goes by the name Shyteek Johnson.
Jury selection in the civil trial is scheduled to begin in a few weeks in Chautauqua County.
A request by Assistant Attorney General Wendy R. Whiting to do further blood tests on Williams was denied. But Michalski ordered Nuchereno to turn over to the attorney general any documentation he provided to Gregory Hendricks, the cell biologist at the UMass Medical School who examined Williams’ blood under an electron microscope and found no evidence of HIV.
Nuchereno called the results of the test “quite shocking.” He said Williams, 36, was confused when he first learned of the results in April.
“He has been vilified for a decade and a half across this country,” Nuchereno said.
Williams believed he was HIV positive for years because that’s what he was told, Nuchereno added.
“Back then there were many false positives,” he said. “The testing was in its infancy back then.”
Following the civil trial, Nuchereno said, he will use the electron microscope findings as new evidence in an effort to overturn Williams’ 1999 conviction.
If freed, Williams plans to move to Virginia, where his wife and mother live.