LOS ANGELES - A onetime Palm Springs resident accused of flying to the Philippines to have sex with boys he met online pleaded not guilty today to federal charges and was ordered detained pending trial by a Los Angeles judge who found the former USC professor to be a "danger to the community."
Walter Lee Williams appeared in court shackled, handcuffed and wearing street clothes to answer to charges contained in a four-count federal indictment alleging crimes involving two 14-year-old boys that he met online in 2010.
"I plead not guilty," Williams, 64, responded firmly when asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Carla Woehrle, who granted the prosecution's motion for detention pending trial, citing flight risk and danger to the community.
The judge said she found "no condition or combination of conditions to ensure the safety of the community" if Williams were to be released. Woehrle also cited Williams' residence in Mexico and apparent lack of community ties or local employment.
He was ordered held in federal custody pending trial set for Aug. 13. A July 29 status conference was also scheduled.
Williams was apprehended by Mexican authorities in the resort city of Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo on Tuesday -- a day after he was added to the FBI's list of its Ten Most Wanted fugitives. A picture of the newly named fugitive ran in a local newspaper, and he was recognized by a Mexican citizen having a cup of coffee in the seaside town about 8:30 p.m. Monday, according to Bill Lewis of the FBI.
Williams was flown to Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday night.
He was charged in an indictment filed in Los Angeles federal court alleging one count of producing child pornography, one count of traveling for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, and two counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places.
Williams taught anthropology, gender studies and history at USC until 2011. Under the guise of academic research, he traveled in the Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast Asia to have sex with underage boys, according to the FBI, which reported having identified 10 victims between ages 9 and 17.
The indictment alleges Williams traveled from Los Angeles to the Philippines in January 2011 to engage in sex acts with two 14-year-old boys he met online in 2010.
Prior to his travel, Williams allegedly engaged in sexual activity via Internet webcam sessions with these boys and expressed a desire to visit them in the Philippines to have sex. Then, while in the Philippines, he allegedly engaged in sex acts with both boys and produced sexually explicit photos of one of them.
Williams fled Los Angeles about a week after returning from the Philippines after he was questioned by the FBI, Eimiller said.
Los Angeles Assistant police Chief Michel Moore said the case came to light about two years ago when a Los Angeles resident concerned about the safety of children contacted authorities. Moore said "there are other victims who have suffered by this man's actions."
Before the arrest, the FBI received information about a possible location for Williams and asked Mexican authorities to apprehend him, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.