By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
GREENVILLE – When high school coaching legend
Dwight Bowling acknowledged his guilt three times today, he admitted sexual acts with at least two minor males.
Bowling, 53, stood before U.S. District Judge Allen Pepper, attorneys and a few others to make the plea, rather than stand trial May 9 on five federal counts surrounding a scandal that shocked North Mississippi last fall.
Today, he also pleaded guilty to one other count – trying to convince one of his victims to lie to federal investigators.
Bowling, as the famously successful head coach at Smithville HIgh School, steered teams of young men to state championships and other athletic acclaim. After 28 years there, he retired and took a similar job at a high school in Sulligent, Ala.
“Did you in fact commit those acts they said you did?” asked Pepper.
“Yes, your honor,” Bowling said as the hearing drew to a close.
He was coming home from a Sulligent victory last September when federal authorities stopped his truck and arrested him on five counts – one for attempting to tamper with a witness and four for taking minors across state lines for sex.
In the vehicle with Bowling was a 13-year-old male, who later told investigators that the coach had touched him in appropriately several times.
At the bottom of all the accusations was that Bowling preyed upon vulnerable young men, usually acting as managers for his football teams, and carried on sexual liaisons with them, some across years.
Today, dressed in yellow jail scrubs, the once confident Bowling arrived in the Greenville courtroom in leg shackles and handcuffs. He has been held without bond in the Lafayette County Detention Center in Oxford nearly all the time since his arrest last year.
Months are likely to pass before he is sentenced. The U.S. Probation Service must complete a pre-sentence report for Pepper’s use in determining what his sentence will be.
If he had been convicted on all five charges, Bowling faced 60 years to life in prison.
He’s believed to be pleading guilty to avoid a public trial in which graphic sexual testimony was expected from at least four males who claim to be among his victims.
The hearing ended at 11:35 a.m.