GREENE COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Sean Williams, a former Johnson City businessman facing several felony charges including child rape and drug charges, escaped police custody in Greene County on Wednesday morning.
Williams was being transported to Greene County from Laurel County, Ky., where he has been held on his federal charges, for a Wednesday afternoon hearing in U.S. District Court. His appointed federal defense attorney filed a motion Friday to withdraw from his case, and that hearing was set for 1:45 p.m.
David Jolley, the head U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Tennessee, told News Channel 11 via email that a back window was kicked out of the van in which two Laurel County Jail transport officers were transporting Williams and another inmate.
Jolley said Williams was restrained during transport but “has managed to remove his restraints.”
He said it is standard for sheriff’s departments and other law enforcement agencies that have contracts with the federal court system and marshals to transport prisoners to appointments without being accompanied by marshals. Those agencies typically bring prisoners to the marshals, who then take custody of them at court.
“The circumstances of the escape are under full investigation and anyone who may have assisted Williams or was negligent in their duties that may have facilitated the escape will be held responsible,” Jolley said.
Jolley told News Channel 11 that the U.S. Marshals are taking the escape very seriously and will consider all possibilities.
“I can tell you that if we find that there was any facilitation of this in any shape, form or fashion, negligence of it, we will be seeking prosecution against anybody that might have had any involvement in that,” Jolley said. “So trying to make a good determination right now on how it happened.”
According to the Greene County Sheriff’s Department (GCSD), Williams escaped custody at 7:30 a.m. during transport.
Williams was last seen in the Summer Street area of Greeneville around 8:30 a.m., the Greene County Sheriff’s Department reported. Williams’ head has been shaven, and he is wearing “jail-type” clothes, police report.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to Williams’ capture. The U.S. Marshals are also offering up an additional $2,500, bringing the total reward for information leading to Williams’ capture to $5,000.
Downtown Greeneville was buzzing with law enforcement officers at mid-morning, including local sheriff’s deputies and police officers, TBI agents and U.S. Marshals.
Near the federal courthouse, a Knox County sheriff’s officer was operating a drone as part of the search. A command center had been set up at the Greene County Emergency Management building about a half-mile from downtown.
“Williams is desperate to escape custody and has attempted previously,” the U.S. Marshal flyer said.
Anyone with information on Williams’ whereabouts is asked to immediately call 911.
All Greeneville City Schools were on a precautionary lockdown Wednesday due to the escape. Students and staff were safe and the lockdown is purely precautionary, the school district said.
On July 23, Williams allegedly tried to escape from the Washington County Detention Center. On Aug. 10, Williams pleaded not guilty to the attempted escape charge.
Court documents obtained by News Channel 11 state Bryce McKenzie, Williams’ second attorney, filed a sealed motion to withdraw from his case on Oct. 13.
Williams was on the run from authorities for nearly two years on a federal ammunition charge before being arrested in North Carolina in April. He has been a central figure in multiple lawsuits in Johnson City due to sexual assault allegations.
This story is currently developing. Stay tuned on-air and online for updates.