Sex offender charged in chemical attack that burned UC Berkeley custodian

Arrested: William “Curly” Kearney. Photo: UCPD

A 62-year-old man, who has failed to keep up with the registration rules required by his sex offender status, is back in jail this week in connection with an early-morning attack on a female UC Berkeley custodian in early April.

The woman was cleaning at Cal’s Wheeler Hall on April 4 when she discovered the man and told him he had to leave because the building was closed, according to authorities. Instead, he burned her with caustic chemicals, then ran off before officers could arrest him, police have said.

According to court records, William John Kearney was arrested Saturday shortly before 6 p.m. UCPD put out an alert Tuesday about the arrest, but did not include Kearney’s name, photograph or any details about the arrest itself. UCPD provided the man’s name and photograph to Berkeleyside on Wednesday in response to a request.

As to how he was taken into custody, NBC Bay Area reported that Kearney “wandered into the department” Saturday, at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and Berkeley police officers found that he “matched arrest warrants from university police.” The news station quoted police as saying the Cal staffer who had been attacked “was ‘shaken’ and had minor to moderate chemical burns, but she was grateful to hear Kearney had been arrested.”


Kearney has been charged with felony assault, using caustic chemicals, in connection with the UC Berkeley attack. He also has an active case involving warrants that list multiple failures to register as a sex offender, and past convictions for stalking (1999), child molestation (2005) — along with a prior undated child molestation case — and criminal threats (2011), according to records online. He entered not guilty pleas in Alameda County Superior Court in connection with both cases Tuesday, according to court records online.

The California Megan’s Law website lists Kearney as “In Violation,” and does not show an address on file for him. It lists Kearney’s 2005 conviction for annoying or molesting a child, along with stalking while under a temporary restraining order. He has at least 22 known aliases, according to the website.

Kearney has 27 cases listed in Alameda County Superior Court dating back to 1999, according to the Odyssey court records system online. Most were misdemeanors that resulted in short stints in jail, and probation. Some were dismissed. His most recent conviction followed a misdemeanor charge in May 2017 for petty theft. According to records online, Kearney entered a no contest plea, and was sentenced to 30 days in jail followed by three years of probation.

Other past misdemeanor arrests have related to campus disruption, lewd conduct, syringe possession, threatening state officials or judges, and more.

According to the East Bay Times, citing court papers generated by UCPD, “in January, an officer became aware of two UC police cases where Kearney was suspected of exposing and/or thrusting his genitals toward passerbys [sic] on campus.”

Kearney, who has no occupation, is being held on $100,000 bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and is set for a pretrial hearing Tuesday at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, according to court records online.

[Correction: Kearney was arrested at the Berkeley Police Department, not on campus. The story has been fixed.]