Prosecutors urge court-martial for midshipman in drug case

This photo provided by the Dover Police Department, in Delaware, shows Zachary Williams, of Canal Fulton, Ohio. The U.S. Naval Academy announced Tuesday, July 24, 2018, it is bringing charges against Williams, a midshipman, who allegedly distributed illegal drugs, including cocaine. (Dover Police Department via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Military prosecutors recommended a court-martial on Wednesday for a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman who is accused of distributing drugs to fellow midshipmen after he acquired them on the dark web, where people search for drugs through secret web browsers and buy them using encrypted channels, code names and virtual currencies.

Midshipman Zachery Williams gave, sold and used the drugs while going to concerts with other students, Lt. Amanda Serfess said, adding that his crimes were particularly offensive, because he introduced drugs to the academy. Antoinette O’Neill, Williams’ lawyer, declined to give a closing statement at the Article 32 hearing at the Washington Navy Yard. The hearing, which lasted less than an hour, is similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding. Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys called witnesses.

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“I do not intend to make a statement, sir,” Williams, of Canal Fulton, Ohio, said, when he was asked if he wanted to comment.

Navy Capt. John Han, the preliminary hearing officer, will make recommendations on whether the case should proceed to a court-martial, a decision that ultimately rests with Vice Adm. Ted Carter, the academy’s superintendent who preferred the charges. Carter is not bound by Han’s recommendations.

The charges include failure to obey a general regulation, making a false official statement and possession of illegal substances. They also include possession of illegal substances with intent to distribute, use of illegal substances and distribution of illegal substances.

Williams remains an active midshipman, though he has been on a leave of absence, Serfess said. He faces dismissal from the academy as well as up to 131 years in prison.

Serfess said two midshipmen told school officials that Williams and “associates” were selling drugs on and off campus. She said a search by Navy investigators of his dorm room turned up ecstasy pills and a white powder, which turned out to be ketamine.

Some of the charges relate to an arrest carried out last month by the Dover, Delaware, Police Department. Williams allegedly sold ecstasy to undercover officers during the Firefly Music Festival, but the charges were later dropped. Serfess said police dropped the charges after Williams cooperated with authorities in other investigations.

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In the Dover arrest, authorities said Williams sold ecstasy to undercover officers in a festival camping parking lot with another Ohio man. Police then found 33 grams of ecstasy, 4.6 grams of cocaine, 1.1 grams of marijuana and a digital scale during a search, according to a police report. But Serfess said what police described as 4.6 grams of cocaine in the report was later described by an officer as ketamine.

Han questioned how those charges could be based on a substance that had not been clearly determined. Serfess said the charges were based off of the police report, and that they may need to wait for a definitive test. She also noted the drugs found in his dorm room.

The charges are based on an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that began in November.

As a result of the Navy investigation, six midshipmen have been kicked out of the academy for using illegal substances. Another five midshipmen were administratively disciplined for drug-related violations.

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