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NASCAR publicist arrested on sex offense charges

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A NASCAR publicist was arrested Tuesday and charged with statutory rape and soliciting a minor for sex over the Internet, authorities said.

Richard Norman "Chip" Williams Jr. of Mooresville was arrested in the parking lot of a Guilford County church, where he had arranged to meet what he thought was a 14-year-old girl with whom he had been conversing in an Internet chat room, Sheriff B.J. Barnes said.

Williams' firm, Williams Company of America, Inc., handles media and public relations for drivers Kyle Petty, Bobby Labonte, Derrike Cope and John Andretti, among others. Williams also formerly worked for NASCAR, where he handled public relations for the top-level Winston Cup racing series.

Barnes said investigators targeted Williams after receiving information about a four-year sexual relationship between the publicist and a now-15-year-old girl from Guilford County.

Williams is charged with first-degree sex offense with a child and statutory rape sex offense -- both stemming from the alleged relationship with the 15-year-old -- and solicitation of a child by computer to commit a sex offense, Barnes said.

He was being held at the Guilford County Jail on a bond of $1 million, and Barnes said he expects additional charges.

When The Associated Press called the jail to confirm Williams' presence there, a jailer agreed to relay a request to Williams seeking a statement or the name of his lawyer. Williams declined to respond to the question.

"I think there's a lot more involvement, from things we got from the Internet," Barnes said. "Basically, we feel he has probably been involved with more than one person."