Fire Control Technician 3rd Class Zakary Alan Williams was arrested for possessing child pornography on March 28, 2022, while he was assigned to the fast-attack submarine Virginia. He pleaded guilty less than a month later. US Navy photo.
An ex-US Navy submariner who got caught with child pornography will spend the next five years behind bars.
On Wednesday, Dec. 7, in Portland, Maine, US District Judge Jon D. Levy sentenced Zakary Alan "Zak" Williams to 70 months in a federal penitentiary for possessing thousands of images and videos depicting nude children, including infants and toddlers.
Six image files and 11 videos showed sadomasochistic abuse and one involved bestiality, court records reveal.
At the time, Fire Control Technician 3rd Class Williams was assigned to the fast-attack submarine Virginia, and he remained with the boat until his detachment on Aug. 15, 2022.
Although he enlisted in the Navy on Nov. 20, 2018, and his crimes occurred while on active duty, Williams was tried in federal court instead of military court-martial.
Pentagon officials declined comment.
The fast-attack submarine Virginia (SSN 774) arrives at Maine's Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for an extended drydock selective restrictive availabilty on Sept. 1, 2010. US Navy photo.
Williams, 25, has been incarcerated since March 28 and will receive credit for time served.
Prosecutors dropped a second felony charge for distributing child pornography after the sailor inked a plea deal on April 21, four months before the Navy separated him from the sea service.
He’s also agreed to pay $47,000 in restitution to victims identified in the pornographic images. Williams had faced up to 20 years in a federal penitentiary and a $250,000 fine.
The case against Williams began in mid-2019, when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reached out to US Homeland Security about an unknown American suspect using the screen name “silverflareon” to upload child pornography on the Kik Messenger app.
Investigators tracked the internet traffic to one of the barracks at the New London Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut. But by the time agents traced them to Williams, he was no longer there.
The fast-attack sub Virginia (SSN 774) successfully exits dry dock at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, on June 22, 2021. Virginia is at the shipyard for a scheduled maintenance period. US Navy photo by Jim Cleveland.
According to his military records, Williams had been a student at the Naval Submarine School in Groton from Jan. 19, 2019, to Oct. 15, 2019. After a brief stint at Submarine Readiness Squadron 32 there, he got orders to report to the Virginia.
Commissioned in 2004 as the lead boat of its class, Virginia is assigned to Submarine Squadron 12, which is based at Groton's Naval Submarine Base New London. But the boat has been undergoing extended maintenance at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, for many months.
On Dec. 11, 2020, Homeland Security Investigations and Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agents interrogated Williams at the yard. He quickly confessed to frequenting "dirty kik pals” and “dirty kink roleplay” discussions and had been sharing illicit images online since 2018, according to court records.
Although Williams claimed he’d set an “age limit” of 13 or older for peeking at naked images of girls, agents combing through his electronic devices turned up scores of files featuring younger children.
They later estimated he compiled 116 hours of videos showing kids being sexually abused. He also admitted to receiving sexually explicit images from a 15-year-old girl in New Mexico he’d befriended online.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, runs along the southern border of Maine, near the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Founded in 1800, it's the US Navy's oldest continuously operating yard. Most of its work involves submarines, like the Cheyenne. The last of the Los Angeles-class fast-attack boats to be built, Cheyenne entered the yard's superflood basin on April 11, 2022, destined for Dry Dock 1. US Navy photo by Jim Cleveland.
Since the sailor’s guilt was never in question, prosecutors and Williams’ court-appointed federal defender, David Beneman, spent the past nine months haggling over how long he’d spend in prison.
Beneman didn’t return Coffee or Die Magazine’s messages seeking comment, but in court filings he pointed to Williams’ earnest confession, low risk of recidivism, and a lack of prior convictions as reasons for the judge to show leniency.
“Only 25 years old, Zak is socially awkward, and isolated. His physical vulnerability in prison is an additional factor among others that supports a below range sentence,” Beneman wrote.
The attorney also referred the judge to a glowing statement penned by Williams’ unnamed Navy supervisor, a filing that remains under seal.
“During my year of serving with Petty Officer Williams, he quickly became my most trusted and reliable Sailor,” the superior wrote. “His work ethic is why he became who I would turn to in order to complete any and all tasking, even the most monotonous of tasking.”
”It is my full confidence that Zakary regrets his actions from the past. I do not know that person, I only know the person who showed up to work every day with a smile on his face, with the desire to complete the Navy’s mission,” the unidentified Navy leader concluded. “I only know the Petty Officer Williams who portrayed the Navy’s Core Values, Honor Courage and Commitment. His utmost character were evident in all of his actions during our time working together.”
Crew members from the Virginia-class fast-attack submarines North Dakota (SSN 784) and Virginia (SSN 774) form up in the shape of a teal-colored ribbon on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, at Naval Submarine Base New London to support Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The crew members are flanked by Virginia (left) and North Dakota (right). US Navy photo by Christian Porter.
Williams’ military decorations included the National Defense Service Medal, a Pistol Marksman badge, and his Enlisted Submarine Warfare Specialist pin.
Beneman urged the judge to sentence Williams to only five years behind bars. But prosecutors disagreed.
They argued Williams didn’t just download child pornography. For years, while he appeared to honorably serve his nation in the Navy, he kept distributing the graphic images and videos online.
They asked for a 78-month prison stretch, the median amount of time served by similar sex criminals.
The judge shaved eight months off the recommended punishment.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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