By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
SMITHVILLE – Forty years is the most prison time coaching icon Dwight G. Bowling can get when he’s sentenced Tuesday for guilty pleas surrounding a sex-with-minors scandal.
Likely, it will be less. But state officials will be ready to pile on up to 50 more years, if they can.
Bowling, 56, was on top of the region’s coaching world 11 months ago as he drove home to Smithville after a football victory as head coach of the Sulligent, Ala., high school football team.
He’d coached championship teams at Smithville and even wrote a book about his coaching philosophy.
After 28 years at Smithville, he retired and then took a similar job at Sulligent.
Before he got home Sept. 17, he was under arrest by federal and state authorities – accused of transporting minor males across state lines for sex. Later he was charged with attempting to tamper with a witness.
Tuesday, Bowling will face U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper in Greenville to learn his federal penalty. Pepper will use guidelines prepared by the U.S. Probation Service to weigh various issues for a range of years in prison, fines and then supervised release after his prison time is completed.
Some federal court observers say Bowling’s sentence could be in the 15-year range. Federal prosecutors declined to comment.
His original five-count indictment filed Sept. 22 projected a maximum sentence of 60 years and $1.25 million in fines.
On April 27, Bowling pleaded guilty to three federal counts. He’s been held in the Lafayette County Detention Center nearly the whole time since his arrest.
He also faces multiple state charges of fondling and sexual battery of minor males in Monroe and Itawamba counties.
Friday, District Attorney John Young said he’ll ask the circuit court to re-convene to sentence Bowling for prison time on top of his federal time.
“It doesn’t seem to me that 15 years or whatever is enough time,” Young said.
The state imprisonment would begin after his federal time is done, Young noted.
Bowling was indicted by grand juries in both counties. Those indictments state graphically the details of sexual acts with minor males.
On June 29, he entered conditional guilty pleas before Circuit Judge James L. Roberts Jr.
In those pleas, Bowling used a rarely employed legal maneuver and refused to admit he did what he was accused of. But he acknowledged the likelihood a jury would find him guilty, if he went to trial.
That’s when Young asked Roberts to sentence him to what constitutes a life sentence.
Roberts postponed a decision until they could weigh it against Pepper’s federal sentence.