Van Lawson Williams, man accused of pimping teens, refuses to leave jail cell for court hearing

Maybe Van Lawson Williams was having a bad morning, or perhaps he just really likes his jail cell.

On Thursday morning, Williams refused to leave his lock-up at the Broward County Main Jail when the U.S. Marshals Service showed up to drive him to a scheduled hearing in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.

"I've been doing this for 25 years and I thought I'd seen everything, but I've never seen a defendant refuse to leave his jail cell," U.S. Magistrate Lurana Snow said in court Thursday.

"I've been told by the marshals that he's steadfastly refused to get in the van and the jail [officials] took the position that they can't manhandle him to force him to show up," Snow said with a wry smile.

The hearing was scheduled to decide whether Williams, 49, should be released on bond or continue to be detained until his case goes to trial.

Federal prosecutors filed charges against Williams and arrested him last week on charges that he lured underage, runaway girls to his Fort Lauderdale home and persuaded them to work for him as prostitutes.

Williams' attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Chantel Doakes told the judge that she met with Williams on Tuesday and he had been planning to attend.

Broward Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said it's an uncommon occurrence. Jail staff try to persuade reluctant inmates to go to court, but don't believe in using force to make it happen.

"If we've ever had to use force, it's extremely minimal force," Coleman-Wright said. "We let it play out in the legal system – why run the risk of someone getting injured unnecessarily?"

It's jail policy to notify the judge handling the case, who usually issues a written order, she said. In most cases, she said the inmates comply when they receive a written order.

According to the complaint, Williams successfully recruited at least two girls and tried to have three others move in with him. The girls all had run away from home, were under the age of 18, and said that Williams either had sex with them or tried to, even though he knew how old they were.

One girl told investigators she had sex for cash about 40 times, and customers paid her and Williams. Williams took half the money for the prostitution and rent money, too, according to court records.


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