A New Hanover County judge on Wednesday slightly lowered the bail of a defendant charged with two counts of first-degree rape following a November 2017 house party in Wrightsville beach. However, the new bail set of $750,000 was far higher than the $150,000 that the defendant’s attorney requested, making it unlikely he could raise the money for bail.
The bond reduction hearing for Harvey Williams, 35, comes after prosecutors dropped several of the initial charges filed against him and his co-defendant, Genell Stephenson, 34.
Superior Court Judge Josh Willey reduced Williams bail from $880,000 at the hearing’s conclusion, where the prosecutor and defense attorney outlined some of the details of the Nov. 26, 2017 incident publically for the first time. Williams has a $100,000 bail on a charge of violation of probation, which the court can’t reduce. Williams’ defense attorney Andrew Waters asked Willey to reduce the other charges to a bond of $50,000, which would have set the total amount to $150,000.
While Genell Stephenson and Harvey Williams are still each charged with two counts of first-degree forcible rape, first-degree forcible sex offense and assault on a female, several of the initial charges have been dropped. Williams is also charged with violation or probation and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. The two are no longer charged with kidnapping, interfering in emergency communications, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
While the assistant district attorney acknowledge that prosecutors weren’t pursuing the drug charges, he said that police did find cocaine residue in the car, but not enough to pursue prosecution.
The arrests came after the two women called police in the early hours of Sunday, Nov. 26, following the annual Holiday Flotilla boat parade in Wrightsville Beach, where people had gathered for a party at 342 Causeway Drive in The Moorings condominium building. The sexual assaults are alleged to have occurred at different areas outside of the apartment.
The prosecutor and defense attorney laid out several elements of the events that occurred in the early morning hours of Nov. 26, where the two women, then ages 21 and 24, met the two men at Level 5 nightclub at 21 N. Front St. before leaving with the men to go to their car.
Both attorneys discussed video from downtown city cameras that showed the four walking to the car that was driven by Stephenson but owned by Williams then-fiance. Waters said that the video showed Stephenson leading, with the two women following, and Williams at the rear, walking slowly due to a foot injury.
The prosecutor also acknowledge that the evidence includes video taken from inside the car. While Waters said the video showed drug use in the car, the prosecutor disputed this, but added that the video from inside the car did not show that the women were in the car against their will.
Once in the car, one of the men received a call to come to the party at the Moorings, allegedly to deliver drugs, the prosecutor said. Wrightsville Beach police have said they found evidence of cocaine at the party, leading to a charge of possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia for Kermit Austin, 43, who was renting the apartment.
Williams was out to celebrate his Nov. 25 birthday, Waters said. The prosecutor said that once they arrived at the Moorings, Stephenson told one woman to come with him, while the other was told to stay with Williams because she was his “birthday present.” While the prosecutor said Williams raped the woman in the back of the car, he also read from a police report where Williams claimed he was unable to achieve an erection.
Stephenson and the other woman went upstairs to the party before coming back down and retrieving the two from the car to go upstairs to the party.
The prosecutor said the four were in the party for about 20 minutes before they all went to a back patio area, where he said both men sexually assaulted the women. At some point during the attack, the prosecutor said, the two men switched women, resulting in two rape and sexual assault charges for each defendant.
From there, the victims were able to leave the party, where one contacted a family friend, who is also a doctor, and said they were sexually assaulted. The doctor said the woman sounded “terribly upset,” the prosecutor said.
“From the very outset, they said they were assaulted,” the prosecutor told Willey.
The women went to the hospital for a rape kit, which the prosecutor said showed evidence of substantial trauma to the women.
However, Waters said other than testimony, the defense has received no physical evidence related to the charges, including results from the rape kit.
Waters raised credibility issues with one of the alleged victims, as the prosecutor acknowledged one of the women recorded a conversation with one of the party goers in an effort to convince this person to testify. The prosecutor said that the woman made the phone call without consulting police or prosecutors and that the district attorney’s office turned the recording over to the defense team.
The prosecutor said that party goer acknowledge being asked for help by the woman, but that he was advised by his lawyer not to make a statement in the case.
“They were scared, they had been sexually assaulted, they asked for help and didn’t get it,” the prosecutor said. “That’s why they ran.”
However, Waters told Willey that while there were a number of people at the party, none of them saw indications of “inappropriate behavior” by Williams or Stephenson.
Waters also disputed the charge of possession of a firearm, arguing that the gun was in the car that belonged to Williams’ then-fiance. However, the prosecutor said that the pistol, which was cocked with a round in the chamber, was on passenger side of the car where Williams had sat on the ride to the Moorings.
The prosecutor said Williams criminal history and his connection to New York City, where he was born, made him a flight risk. In addition to several charges related to drug sales, Williams also had charges of fleeing police and providing fraudulent information.
On the night of the alleged attack, Williams was less than eight months removed from an 11-year prison sentence on manslaughter charges. In April 2005, Williams fired a pistol from a moving vehicle on Oleander Drive near the Independence Mall, hitting and killing a friend of his, who was not the intended target, the prosecutor said.
Waters said that Williams had a special needs child and needed to find work. Before the arrest, he was prepared to begin work as an Uber drive, Waters said. One of Willey’s conditions of the bail reduction was that Williams could not work as an Uber driver.
Both Williams and Stephenson have trial dates set for Nov. 5. Stephenson remains in jail on a $550,000 bail.