A man on trial in the alleged gang rape of a 13-year-old girl was identified by a co-defendant Friday as one of several people who had sex with her in a darkened room, contradicting the defendant's blanket denials.
Jacolby Hasan Williams, 21, has pleaded not guilty, maintaining that he wasn't at his apartment on Potter Drive in east Colorado Springs when the girl said she was pinned to a bed and raped by several males in December 2016.
But according to a graphic recounting Friday by James Williams, 21, the defendant was among those who had sex with the girl, bolstering the account the victim delivered in court a day earlier.
Denying that he had any involvement, James Williams told jurors he was on a couch in a different room and occasionally peered through a partially open door into the bedroom as his two cousins and several friends, including Jacolby Williams, took turns engaging in sex acts with her. Although James Williams said the lights were off, he was able to see enough to conclude that the defendant had on a condom, he said. He maintained the girl was a willing participant, however, and told jurors she said she was 17 when asked.
The testimony set off a battle in court as attorneys for Jacolby Williams sought to limit the damage - suggesting James Williams had reasons to bend the truth, including an ax to grind against the defendant.
James Williams, 21, who isn't related to Jacolby Williams, was among six males initially charged with sexual assault in the case, and attorneys for the defendant accused him of being willing to say anything to avoid a potential life sentence.
Under cross-examination by public defender Nathan Ojanen, James Williams acknowledged that he initially insisted during two interviews with Colorado Springs police investigators that he had left the apartment before any sex acts occurred.
But James Williams changed his story when police told him that Jacolby Williams, during a separate interrogation, confirmed that James Williams was inside the apartment.
Confronted by police with that information, James Williams admitted being present but stuck to his story that he didn't participate, instead naming Jacolby Williams as one of the people involved.
"You know Jacolby was the reason you were caught lying, right?" Ojanen asked him, spurring James Williams to agree.
James Williams' voice grew soft as Ojanen pressed him over his comments under interrogation by police. When told the girl had identified him in a lineup as one of the males who raped her, he acknowledged telling a detective: "What do you want me to say?"
"I was scared," James Williams said on the stand.
The encounter proved a turning point in which James Williams agreed to turn state's witness and to name names - so long as he wouldn't be prosecuted for rape.
Charged with three counts of sexual assault, James Williams ultimately pleaded guilty to accessory to kidnapping in exchange for a probationary sentence and his promise to testify. He is among four people who have since pleaded guilty to lesser charges, leaving Jacolby Williams as the first of the defendants to proceed to a trial.
"You got a fantastic deal in this case, didn't you?" Ojanen asked him.
James Williams' claim he wasn't involved was consistent with the girl's account on the stand that she was assaulted by five males, rather than the six initially charged. She denied the sex was consensual, but struggled to recall details, saying she blacked out for several minutes.
Although he claimed the sex he witnessed wasn't forced, James Williams painted a picture of a brutish encounter, saying that when the males had finished, the girl left the apartment immediately without her shoes, and that someone tossed them outside after her.
"You better not be on that rape sh--" James Williams' cousin, Uves Williams, told her on her way out, he said. Uves Williams, who was 16 at the time, is the only other defendant awaiting trial in the case.
The case against Jacolby Williams is expected to continue Monday and is on track to conclude next week.
If convicted, he faces the potential of life in prison or on sex offender intensive supervised probation.