Duluth man indicted for child sex crimes, faces life sentence

Already a convicted sex offender, Andrew Bearden Williams, 28, under supervision for a previous case that involved two separate victims.

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DULUTH — A convicted sex offender is accused of repeatedly assaulting a 12-year-old child while on supervised release from prison.

Andrew Bearden Williams, 28, of Duluth, was indicted by a grand jury last week on 14 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, each carrying a mandatory life sentence.

Andrew Bearden Williams.jpg
Andrew Bearden Williams

Williams was convicted of two sex crimes in Cook County involving two 15-year-old victims, and later admitted to a violation of predatory offender requirements, according to court documents.

The present case involves an alleged series of assaults between August and October 2020. Williams was initially charged by complaint in January 2022, but the indictment increases his potential consequences.

Court documents indicate Williams was living in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in November 2020 when parole agents conducted a compliance check after learning that he may be in possession of drugs. The search led to the seizure of controlled substances, paraphernalia, firearms, ammunition and a cellphone.


Authorities were continuing the investigation into potential new charges and parole violations when Williams' estranged wife reported to police that she "had been hearing rumors that Mr. Williams had been inviting juvenile females to the house where he had been living." She reportedly logged into the defendant's Instagram account and took screenshots of two exchanges that involved the victim and one of her friends.

According to documents, the 12-year-old confirmed that she had gone to Williams' house in the past, that she sent a photo of her "private parts" and touching and kissing between the two had "led to more."

A judge later authorized a search of the phone that had been seized during the November compliance check, along with a search of the defendant's Instagram and Snapchat accounts and DNA to confirm a match to a stain from clothing the victim indicated she wore during encounters with Williams.

The initial complaint charged him with four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a person under the age of 13 when the defendant was more than 36 months older. Judge Sally Tarnowski in November upheld the constitutionality of the searches and declined to sever the charges into separate cases.

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The grand jury indictment, which is required in order to seek a life sentence, is premised on both Williams' history of sexual abuse and alleged aggravating factors in the new case.

While charged under several different legal theories, the counts broadly allege that he "caused personal injury to the (victim), using force or coercion to accomplish sexual penetration," and that the victim was "particularly vulnerable" and was treated with "particular cruelty." The indictment also relies on the 12-year-old allegedly being the third separate victim of Williams.

A conviction on any of the 14 counts would require a sentence for life imprisonment, but Williams would have the opportunity to petition for parole after a minimum term specified by a judge and would remain subject to supervision for the rest of his life.

Court records show Williams pleaded guilty in Cook County in January 2014 to felony third-degree and gross misdemeanor fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct. A transcript indicates Williams, then 18, testified that he moved to the area from Kentucky to live with a 15-year-old "girlfriend" that he had met online.


He testified that they engaged in sexual activity and acknowledged that she lacked the legal ability to consent, as she was a year under the minimum age in Minnesota. As part of a plea agreement, the Cook County Attorney's Office declined to prosecute him for possession of child pornography involving the same victim.

Williams also admitted to attempted coercion of sexual activity with the victim's 15-year-old friend, exposing himself in her presence.

Having already spent more than 10 months in jail, he was initially sentenced to seven years of supervised probation. But several violations led to a revocation of probation and the execution of a 36-month prison term.

In 2017, Williams admitted to cutting off his GPS ankle monitor and absconding from his primary residence at a Duluth treatment center. That resulted in an additional 16-month prison term.

The November 2020 probation check at his Lincoln Park residence resulted in a conviction for felon in possession of ammunition. He again served jail time, but a five-year prison term was stayed for three years of probation.

Williams made an initial appearance on the indictment Jan. 19 in State District Court. Tarnowski set bail at $2 million, though a Department of Corrections hold currently precludes any opportunity for his release.

In addition to the 14 counts involving life sentences, St. Louis County prosecutor Jon Holets indicated he would move forward with three counts from the initial complaint, each carrying up to 30 years in prison.

Tarnowski granted defense attorney J.D. Schmid's request for a copy of the secret grand jury transcript, with the defendant's next court appearance set for March 21.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or
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