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Sex offender convicted in rape of student

The student said that in September of 2018 she was befriended online by a woman working for Willie Taylor who told her she could make money as an escort.
Credit: Shelby County Jail
Willie James Taylor

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis man on the state Sex Offender Registry was convicted Friday of the rape of a University of Memphis freshman student he was trying to recruit for his online prostitution business, said Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich.

A Shelby County Criminal Court jury found Willie James Taylor Jr. guilty of rape, two counts of promoting prostitution, and assault involving bodily injury. Taylor, 39, remains in custody and is scheduled to be sentenced later by Judge Chris Craft.

According to testimony in the week-long trial, the student said that in September of 2018 she was befriended online by a woman working for Taylor who told her she could make money as an escort.

The 18-year-old student said she did not believe the work would require having sex, and that the woman picked her up at her dorm to discuss the matter further. Waiting in the car, however, was Taylor who drove them to a Whitehaven hotel on Winchester where she learned the woman, 21, was working for Taylor as a prostitute and recruiter.

The student said they told her that she too would be working for Taylor as a prostitute and that she would be required to give him the money. Taylor then raped her and made her pose for suggestive photos to post online to attract customers.

When the student eventually was allowed to leave, she returned to her dorm and called police.

Taylor has been on the Sex Offender Registry since 2007 for a sexual battery conviction. He also has a pending aggravated rape cold case from 2005 involving a 16-year-old high student.

The trial was handled by Asst. Dist. Atty. Alyssa Hennig of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Unit (SVU) and by Asst. Dist. Atty. Jamie Kidd of the District Attorney’s Special Prosecution Unit (SPU) Division 8.   

The SVU prosecutes cases of rape, child sexual abuse, severe physical abuse of children, elder abuse and vulnerable adult abuse. The SPU seeks maximum sentencing for repeat felony offenders.