Judges agree to hold coach on federal and state sex charges

ABERDEEN – Coaching icon Dwight Bowling and his family sat transfixed Wednesday as they twice heard his recorded voice plead for cover from federal and state investigations into claims that he had sex with minors.
“It’s my reputation, my life, my job, everything,” he said in the recorded phone conversation with a now 19-year-old man he’s accused of having sex with across six years.
“Please, please, please,” the two-time state championship high school football coach said. “Because, if you don’t want to come to my funeral no time soon … and I don’t think I could live with … with having to go to jail over something like this.”
U.S. Magistrate Jerry A. Davis bound Bowling’s case over to a federal grand jury about noon. Nearly four hours later, Circuit Judge James Roberts signed arrest warrants on 10 state charges against him.
Bowling, who coached at Smithville High School for 28 years, retired there and took a similar job in Sulligent, Ala., five years ago. He was arrested Friday on his way home to Itawamba County from a football team victory.
In the truck with him, testimony revealed, was a 13-year-old boy who later alleged to law enforcement that Bowling touched him inappropriately at least four times since January.
At the federal level, prosecutors accuse Bowling of tampering with a witness and repeatedly taking a minor across state lines for sex.
He also is charged in Monroe County on three counts of fondling, two of sexual battery and one of child exploitation, and in Itawamba County on one count of fondling, one of sexual battery and two of child exploitation.
State prosecutors alleged the various sexual acts occurred in both counties, although in several cases their witness wasn’t able to be specific about when or where.
District Attorney John Young said he will present the cases to the two grand juries when he’s confident they’re ready. If the case goes to trial, it will occur in each county on those specific charges.
Bowling’s attorney, Christi R. McCoy of Oxford, said after the two hearings that she isn’t aware of any charges yet to come out of Lamar County, Ala., where Sulligent is located. Her client is alleged to have taken a youth there for sex in the high school’s field house.
Bowling is on administrative leave from his job. Davis denied him bail and termed him “a danger to the community.”
McCoy declined to ask for bail in state court because of the federal hold.
Davis also ordered a psychiatric evaluation because Bowling threatened to take his life soon after his arrest. He was to be moved from the Monroe County Jail to the Lafayette County Detention Center, which is known for greater access to medical facilities.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Roberts termed Bowling “a serial preferential molester” in urging Davis not to free him on bond.
Monroe Chief Deputy Brent Swan testified that at least seven other youths have come forward with accusations about sexual advances from Bowling.
In state court, Itawamba Deputy Chris Humphreys read sexually explicit statements from the two individuals who first presented their claims to authorities
The recorded phone conversation, played during both hearings, was between Bowling and the youth he’s alleged to have begun a sexual relationship with in Itawamba County when the boy was 13 in 2004 and continued in Sulligent through 2009.
Monday, McCoy said her client has never and would never hurt a child.
Wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit, Bowling repeatedly looked at his family seated in the federal courtroom. His back was to them during the state hearing.
More than 50 people attended the proceedings, among them several young men who looked like current or former high school athletes.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal