The Texas man who missed his youngest child’s birth because he was jailed on a long-delayed charge from Charlottesville’s infamous 2017 Unite the Right rally weekend will be missing more time with his newborn.
37-year-old William McAffe Williams of Nacona, Texas, charged with using a burning object to racially intimidate, was denied bail for a second time during a Friday morning hearing in Albemarle County Circuit Court by Judge Claude Worrell.
“This evidence today is very different from the last time we heard this matter,” said Worrell, before calling Williams a “danger to his community.”
The evidence aired Friday is that, contrary to what his attorney said a week earlier during the initial bail hearing, Williams has a more than passing connection to fugitive racist blogger Robert “Azzmador” Ray.
“There are things to be concerned about now that the court wasn’t concerned about before,” said Worrell.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney W. Lawton Tufts highlighted an assertion made at the last hearing by Williams’ attorney that Williams had only two interactions with Ray. But Tufts showed the court photographs of the men at two additional public events, and Tufts told the court the two men had attended a 2016 speech at Texas A&M University by white nationalist leader Richard Spencer.
“He proffered to the court through his attorney that he’d been with Robert Ray on only two occasions,” said Tufts. “And that’s a lie.”
Tufts said that law enforcement officials have asserted that Williams was a member of the so-called “Book Club” with Ray and which Tufts has previously characterized as an extremist group. Tufts said Friday that Williams was also part of a “bully squad” that would provide “muscle” at public events. Tufts further alleged that Ray has stayed overnight at Williams’ residence to evade capture by authorities.
Williams’ attorney, Ryan Rakness, said that Tufts’ verbal allegations don’t constitute evidence.
“I don’t think there was any lie,” said Rakness, who categorized his prior statement about only two meetings as the result of a misunderstanding.
“None of this evidence indicates he is a flight risk,” said Rakness, noting that Williams has seven children and a long-time job as a truck driver.
Tufts, however, said that the new concern was less about trying to flee justice and more about his client’s reliability and danger to the public.
“The defendant lied to the court at the last bond hearing,” said Tufts.
Williams was arrested in his home state on April 1 and has been incarcerated since April 27 at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
Rakness said that the legal presumption is that his client should be granted bail, and he brought seven letters from friends and family allegedly indicating that “Billy” Williams is a valued member of his community who should be reunited with his common law wife and his seven children, the oldest of whom is said to be nine years old.
“Not one act by my client was proffered; not one word by my client was proffered,” said Rakness. “It feels like the Commonwealth is saying my client has odious political views and should be held.”
“It has nothing to do with his views,” countered the judge. “He has demonstrated that he has some disregard for the law.”
At the prior bail hearing, Rakness spoke about the disruption in Williams’ life that the felony charge was causing, nearly six years after the alleged crime.
But beyond a brief statement alluding to the passage of time when it announced the unsealed indictments last month, the prosecution has not explained why it waited so long.
“This is our process regardless of how much time has passed or where the alleged offenders may be found,” Tufts and Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley wrote in their April 17 press release.
One delay might have been that Hingeley’s predecessor, Robert Tracci, declined to prosecute. Tracci had asserted that Virginia’s burning-to-intimidate statute did not apply to the notorious torch march on August 11, 2017 at the University of Virginia. Although many marcher shouted Nazi slogans such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us,” Tracci said that torches did not constitute the burning “objects” that the law, written to outlaw cross-burnings, had attempted to criminalize.
Tracci’s successor Hingeley took office in December 2019.
At least two other men — Dallas Medina of Ravenna, Ohio and Tyler Bradley Dykes of Bluffton, South Carolina — are facing similar counts. Medina was released on bail in his home state while Dykes was denied bail by Judge Worrell. Another man — Will Zachary Smith, who hails from Williams’ hometown — accepted a plea deal earlier this month and has been freed in advance of his sentencing, according to Albemarle County court records.
While attorney Rakness appeared disappointed by Worrell’s decision Friday, the handcuffed and shackled Williams remained stoic. No trial date for him has been set, but he is due back in court on June 5. The crime can put someone in jail for up to five years.