By Patsy R. Brumfield / Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – Dwight Bowling, who coached young men for three decades, pleaded guilty today to 14 Monroe and Itawamba county charges that he had sex with minor males.
He also faces a federal sentence after he pleaded guilty in April to similar accusations, including that he transported minor males into Alabama for sex.
Bowling, 56, sat quietly beside his attorney, Lori Basham, as prosecutors read the charges to Circuit Judge James Roberts in the Monroe County courthouse.
It wasn’t immediately clear which prison term will begin first. U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. has yet to set a sentence date for him.
Given his age and the potential for decades in prison, Bowling faces the rest of his life behind bars.
In court for the state today were District Attorney John Young and assistants Paul Gault and Chip MIlls.
Bowling was arrested last September as he drove home to Smithville from a football victory by Sulligent, Ala., High School where he was head coach. He served a similar post at Smithville High for nearly 30 years before retiring to go to Sulligent.
His state indictments accuse him of fondling and having oral sex with more than one youth between 2004 and 2009. He also is accused of offering money to get a now-adult male witness to lie about their years-long sexual relationship.
• • •
THE HEARING WAS SET TO BEGIN AT 10 A.M. (Below is a running account of what happened. Please forgive the likely typos and other gliches as this is typed in real time.)
(Just a few people in the audience. Mostly deputies and court personnel on hand, which is very different from the day Bowling was arraigned. Judge calls me, WTVA’s Robert Byars into chambers to say only defendant objects to media working in court today and that the judge believes we have a right to be here, dispute our not giving the court 48 hours notice. In truth, I didn’t know until late Tuesday that the plea hearing was planned. Judge acknowledges that the court didn’t have that much notice, either. Judge also says the hearing could take 2-3 hours.)
10: 22 – Prosecutors, defense in place. Judge takes his seat behind the bench. (Bowling not in courtroom, was earlier wearing the yellow jail jumpsuit. Deputies bring him to defense table wearing handcuffs, no leg shackles.)
ROBERTS – Regular day in Monroe Circuit Court term. Court set aside this morning for however much is required for particular cases involving Dwight G. Bowling. Media is present, for the record. Of course courtrooms are open to the public. Media always welcomed to be here. Camera coverage notice was only question, not received within 48 hours. Probably didn’t know about hearing until today. Bottom line, final decision remains with court, and the court respects wishes or all, including Bowling who objects to camera coverage, notes for record, court is permitting camera coverage. Media respectfully requested not to divulge the names of victims or alleged victims who might be mentioned during this proceeding.
Anticipate that proceeding will take, not probably a real length of time, my guess is 1-2 hours. Ms. Basham, any difficulty with standing that period of time? (She says no.)
(Basham and Bowling move to center front, before Roberts. Basham on right, Bowling on left. Monroe sheriff’s official Danny Starks has trouble with tangled microphone cord but gets it to the defense.)
Judge calls the cases – Monroe charges offense of fondling, fondling Ct. 1, fondling Ct. 2, sexual battery Cts. 3 ,4, child exploitation in Cts. 5-6. Also, offense of bribery of a witness. Itawamba charges – fondling, Ct. 1 child exploitation, Ct. 2 sexual battery, Ct 3 child exploitation. Also, offense of Ct. 1 sexual battery, Ct. 2 sexual battery.
Judge says Bowling will enter plea of guilty to each and every one of these offenses – total of 14. Perhaps some issue with Monroe cause charges bribery of a witness. Basham can address as court gets to it.
Judge begins standard questions to Bowling to determine he is competent to enter his pleas.
YOUNG – Understand plea being offered under N.C. v Alford – pleading because he believes he would be convicted of these charges. State prefers he admits to each and every charge. Believe we could establish that he is guilty of each and every charge.
BASHAM – sentence pleas are offered under Alford.
ROBERTS – Court will accept under U.S. v Alford, procedure used from times to time. Legally permissable, acceptable avenue. Respect statement by District Atty. If you need to add to record (to Young/Basham), please let me know. (Young agrees.)
(Judge begins to ask questions. Tells Bowling that the renovated courtroom’s acoustics leave something to be desired. Urges him to speak loudly enough for court reporter and others to hear him.)
BOWLING – (begins to respond, his identify, about charges, drug/alcohol abuse, mental disease, other charges against him pending …. ) Bowling pleaded to federal charges but haven’t been sentenced yet. No other state. (Speaking strongly to questions.) Yes sir, pleaded guilty under federal guidelines (said 3 charges).
Education? I have college degree, master’s degree. 56 years old, DOB 3/2/55. Valid Driver’s License but it’s expired. Married. 2 grown sons, some step children.
When last employed? Last school year, August-November 2010 at Lamar County Sulligent High School.
Can read and write? (Yes, sir… kind of chuckles with answer)
Roberts continues with questions about whether he knows he’s pleading free and voluntary – Yes sir, Bowling says. No one promised him anything for pleas. Understands he’s waiving a number of legal and constitutional rights. Understands meaning of “waive.” Understands waiving trial before jury. Waiving that state prove all charges beyond reasonable doubt. Waiving right to remain silent. Yes sir, Bowling says. Waives right to speedy trial, to confront or cross-examine witnesses against him, to present own witnesses. Waives right to appeal conviction by jury. But if you plead guilty, you will have no right to appeal whatsoever. (Yes sir)
ROBERTS – 14 separate charges. I am required to read each one. I will do so, then we will take them one at a time as per my questions.
1. Monroe County – March 2009-Sept. 2009, fondling child under age 16. / Bowling – understands charge.
2. Monroe Cnty – Ct. 1 Aug. 2004-May 2005, fondling child under age 16. / Bowling – understands, yes sir
3. Monroe – Ct. 2 May 2005-Aug. 2005, fondling child under age 16. / Bowling – understands? Yes sir.
4. Monroe – Ct. 3 May 2005-Aug. 2005, sexual battery on minor male (oral sex). / Bowling – understands? Yes sir (voice quivers)
5. Monroe – Ct. 4, Aug. 2005-May 2006, sexual battery on minor male (oral sex). / Bowling – understands? Yes sir.
6. Monroe – Ct. 5, Aug. 2007-May 2008, entice and seduce minor child for sexually explit conduct. / Bowling – yes sir
7. Monroe – Ct. 6 Aug. 2008-May 2009, entice and seduce minor child for sexually explicit conduct. / Bowling (BASHAM – Your honor, Bowling not feeling well, May he use the restroom?)
(Attorneys speak with judge during recess. Likely talking about whether Bowling can continue to hear all the charges against him. Looks like judge has intent to continue. Of course, I can’t hear what they’re saying. Looks like Basham’s asking if they can sit at defense table while rest of proceeding occurs. Bowling’s back now.)
ROBERTS – Court will permit defendant to remain seated (at defense table).
Court has read through Count 5. Now Ct. 6 … understand? / Bowling – yes sir
8. Monroe – Ct. 7, Sept. 10, 2010 – offer money to potential witness, to influence his testimony. Understand? / Bowling – yes sir
9. Itawamba – March 2009-Sept. 2009 – as adult fondled minor male. Understand/ Bowling- yes sir
10. Itawamba – Ct. 1 Aug. 2007-May 2008 – entice and seduce minor male to meet with you for sexually explicit conduct, when defendant in a position of trust, his football coach. Understand / Bowling – yes sit
11. Itawamba – Ct. 2 – May 2005-Aug. 2005 – sexual battery on minor male (oral sex), defendant in position of trust, his football coach. Understand? / Bowling – yes sir
12. Itawamba – Ct. 3 – Aug. 2008-May 2009 – entice and seduce minor male to meet with you for sexually explicit conduct, to have sex, when defendant was in position of trust, as football coach. Understand? / Bowling – yes sir
13. Itawamba – Ct. 1 (another charge) Aug. 2001-May 2002 – sexual battery on another minor male (oral sex), defendant in position of trust, as his football coach. Understand? / Bowling – yes sir
14. Itawamba – Ct. 2 – Aug. 2002 – May 2003 – sexual battery on third minor male (oral sex), defendant in position of trust, as his football coach. Understand? / Bowling – yes sir.
ROBERTS – These pleas being offered under U.S. case of N.C. v. Alford. Court has read each and every charge for record – Monroe and Itawamba causes.
Mr. Young, Gault, Mills – whoever to respond for state. Please state facts in each of 14 charges.
GAULT – Offer and proof in the causes. State will read into record an offer of proof that relates and references each cause. Proof goes directly to each charge. If court needs more, state will respond. Note that D.A. has signed offer of proof, and defendant/atty read and signed, acknowledged that state could prove the facts if this went to trial.
Aug. 2001-May 2002 – oral sex on male minor. Also again. Defendant was his teacher and football coach at Smithville High School where minor attended. Also at home of Bowling when minors spent time at residence. Continue acts until child removed hismelf from football program. Child would try to resist.
Started to molest another youth in 2004 when child in 7th grade. Abuse continued through 2010. Bowling engaged in variety of sexual acts with youth at his home, in Smithville football house, at Sulligent football house and on church trip to N.C. Oral sex, fondling as minor. Bowling enticed him to meet for sex acts while youth a minor.
March 2009-Sept. 2009 – third youth invited to Bowling house to go fishing. Found Bowling on couch with him. Fondled him. Also on fishing trip.
2010 – phone call from Bowling to another youth. REcorded. Bowling asked now-adult to lie, would give him money if needed. Bowling said he knew what they had done was wrong. SEcond call, Bowling sought assurances that previous conversation was not recorded. Dec. 7, 2010 – federal inmate told Monroe sheriff’s department and Itawamba, that while in jail with Bowling, he admitted to having sex with minor males.
State can prove every fact in indictment. State will point out that this proof made part of court files, signed by Bowling. At this time, in further offer or proof, state would like to play audio of phone call be played for the record/
ROBERTS – BSHAM, ANY OBJECTION?
BASHAM – We object, court has heard it before. Don’t see necessity in offer of proof. THis court has heard the tape, don’t see any need to play it again.
GAULT – State will point out this is a guilty plea. It is the state’s burden to put on adequate evidence.
ROBERTS – Record of objection. Since this is different proceeding, court will overrule and play tape.
GAULT – Sets up CD to play 11:14 a.m. / Bowling calls now-adult man. Chat about Smithville football game. Bowling says Sulligent won, too. Bowling says young man knows what’s been said about him and accusations against him. This is going to be presented to grand jury in October. I’ve heard you said I was named. Youth says he hasn’t … what should I say? Bowling says to say Hell no, that I never done anything to you. It’s going to look bad on you too. Youth – what if they catch me lying? Bowling- not going to. I’ll swear on Bible and in court, if it ever got that far, that you didn’t do anything, I hadn’t done anything. I hate to see you lie but you may have to. I could lose my job,e verything I got, I could lose my life. It is that serious. If you will get my back, I promise you I will take care of you. If you need money any time. Call, I’ll give you whatever whenver you need if you will take care of me. Don’t tell anybody I give you money. Call me, say you need a hundred dollars, $500, it would be worth it to me. What will happen, if you’re not careful. The grand jury you’ll have to go up there and be interviewed by 20 people, alone, they will grill you, ask you all kinds of stuff. Allyou have to do is say I don’t have anything against him. Not going to. That’s what they want, something against me. I can’t even stand up for myself. If they think they have evidence, they will arrest me. Then it’s over – my reputation, my life, it’s over. It’s very important. Ask about fishing – say we went fishing. Say no, absolutely not about if I touched you. Says another boy’s mother is going everywhere she can to convince people of accusations. If ever got to court, it wouldn’t be pretty at all for either one of us. Say, no we haven’t done anything, went fishing just like you said in letter for graduation. I appreciate it. I’ve always been a role model to you, nothing happened. But if you’ve told somebody, well just say I was sort of pressured into saying that. I’m not going to stick to it, won’t say anything bad about him. Who’s asked you? Youth says it’s boy’s mother – says he lied to her. Bowling says that’s good, I appreciate that – she thinks I did something to her son. Nothing happened, preacher was satisfied. Don’t know why she’s got this vendetta against me. Trying to ruin me. You really gotta help me. I’m at point, last night, ready for it all to be over. I now that’s not way for it to be. But I know what we have done wasn’t right but I’ll say not. We can just be friends. WE can go fishing and you’ll have to get my back. If you need something, just say I’m not saying anything bad about coach. If she don’t leave you alone, call me. If you need something, you know I’ve always been there for you. Think a lot of you, love you. Please please take care of me. If you get subpoena, say I have nothing bad to say about Coach Bowling. They can’t make you say nothing. Will you do that for me? Youth says – yes, I will. Bowling says don’t say we’ve talked. Woman accused him of having sexual acts with young boys. Please take care of me. If you have any texts, don’t know if we’ve said anything to be misconstrued. Please please please, if you don’t want to come to my funeral any time soon. Don’t think I could live if I had to go to jail over something like this. All the things I’ve done in my life, career. She’s trying to ruin everything. Just take care of me. Call me if you need me. I’m holding you to that. Call me if you need money. Bye.
(SECOND CALL) Bowling calls back to ask if their chat was recorded.) Wasn’t any way that could have been recorded? Youth says no, I promise it wasn’t. Bowling somebody said they might have you wired. Youth says no, they don’t. Bowling – Please tell me the truth. Youth says, I am. Bowling – You sure now? Youth – I’m sure. Bowling asks him where he is, if anybody can hear. Promise me it’s true? Youth – I promise. Bowling – Please please please, OK? Youth – OK. Bowling – I can’t live if something happens. Youth- all right. Bowling – please, please don’t tell anybody that we’ve talked. Nobody knows it but me and you. I’ll know if they find out. Don’t tell brother anybody. Bye.
11:29 a.m. – CDs completed.
GAULT – Asks court to receive recording as evidence.
BASHAM – Renews objections.
ROBERTS – Over-ruled. Admit into evidence.
It’s court’s understanding, Gault and Young, state has completed facts it states it can prove at trial in Monroe causes, Itawamba causes. 14 separate charges, correct?
Bowling, remain seated. You have heard through statements … you have heard court read each of 14 separate charges. Now heard Mr. Gault state for record with statement and recording the facts that the state contends it could prove at trial in each of 14 charges. Do you understand state’s position of proof?
BOWLING – Yes sir
ROBERTS – To Basham, have you discussed facts with your client?
BASHAM – Yes, I have. Also discussed results and consequences upon return of guilt by jury? (she says yes)
ROBERTS – Understand proof and probable verdicts? (Bowling – yes your honor)
About evidence, do you believe good probability that it would result in conviction on each count? (Bowling – yes your honor) Do you think in your best interest to offer plea of guilty? (Bowling – yes your honor) Do you consent that judgment of guilty be entered without a trial in Monroe causes, Itawamba causes? (Bowling – one second, your honor. Yes sir) Do you consent that you’ll be sentenced for these charges (Judge reads short description of all charges)? (Bowling – yes sir)
Gault, Young or Mills – who will respond about sentences?
Fondling sexual battery, child exploitation and bribery? YOUNG – fondling min 2 years, $1K fine max 15 years, $5K each.
YOUNG – sexual battery min none, max 30 years, $10K fine. Child exploitation – min 5 yrs, $50K fine, max 40 yrs, $500K fine. Witness bribery – min none, max 5 years. $5K.
ROBERTS – How much is mandatory?
YOUNG – Mandatory of serving every day.
ROBERTS – All sentences are day for day, except for bribery.
GAULT – Also, state asks that acknowledgement of receipt of MS Sex Offender Registry Act be admitted to record.
ROBERTS – All right.
BASHAM – wasn’t provided a copy of that.
ROBERTS – Required to inform you of min and maxs. Each of these charges and numbers have been enumerated several times. Total 4 fondling charges. (tells him mins and max) Bowling says he understands. Sexual battery – total 5 charges. Child exploitation – total 4 charges. Bribery – 1 charge.
Says max on all – could receive total 375 years with MDOC and fines of $2M plus fees and costs? (Bowling- yes sir)
Does state have recommendation? YOUNG – yes, we do. REcommend Monroe 170 – 15 years. #171 Monroe – 15 years, 15 years, 30 years, 30 years, 40 years, 40 years. Monroe #172 bribery- 5 years. Itawamba #178 – fondling 15 years. #179 – 40 years, 30 years, 40 years. It $180 – 30 years sex batt, 30 years. Since unable to reach agreement as to sentences, recommend they run consecutive to each other and to any other sentence from any other jurisdiction, including federal court in Oxford. Further recommend any fines court deems fit to impose. Specifically, recommend that each victim involved in these cases that consecutive sentences be ordered – get at least 50 years with MDOC be consecutive to anything he receives in any other jurisdiction and federal court.
ROBERTS – To understand, Bowling? (yes sir)
Did Young say what you thought he would say? (Bowling – she told me what he would say. Yes. Not a surprise)
Court doesn’t have to take recommendation from anyone. Do you understand that? (Bowling – yes sir) Sentencing up to court.
Basham, have you talked to Bowling prior to pleas? (Yes) Is he intoxicated or iunder drugs? Does he fully undersatnd (Yes sir) Any reason why shouldn’t accept guilty pleas? (No your honor. Says he didn’t expect any promises. Understand what is happening, freely and voluntarily).
Bowling – are you satisfied with Basham? (Bowling – yes sir) Understand about to offer guilty pleas to 14 charges, admitting you committed these 14 crimes? (yes) Still wish to plead guilty? (yes sir) Anything don’t understand? (No sir)
Record, Bowling plea? BOWLING – guilty pursuant to NC v Alford, / judge continues asking – guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty – 14 times.
Ms. Basham, anything either of you wish to say today? (Basham whispers to Bowling)
BASHAM – Don’t believe Mr. Bowling wishes to make a statement at this time. All pleas made under Alford. Multiple conversations with Bowling family. Feel this plea is in his best interests based on possibility of multiple jury trials . We agree in his best interest.
JUDGE – Anything fro state? Today about victims rights or restitution to be addressed?
YOUNG – I would like to bring up mnatter of sentencing. Know we haven’t discussed. But understands won’t sentence today?
ROBERTS – Nothing said on record yet but several discussions. It ismy inclincation to defer today, pending sentencing in federal court. Perhaps not. Court will listen to and permit either one of you to enter statements. Basham? (She says multiple conversations in chambers. He’s asking continued until federal sentence. That process has been started, nothet completed. Sometime this year though we don’t hae a date. Will contact Ms. Mccoy about a date.)
YOUNG – state for court, that sentence today would be fine. Would like at some reasonable date. I personally have no idea when any sentencing will take place. believe some of the time he serves should be with federal system but also with MDOC. Point out that this investigation conducted by MS authorities. Feds assisted in some ways. But investigation by Monroe, Itawamba Sheriff’s offices, and DA’s office. I was brought in rather early because ADA Dennis Farris called me when these allegations were made. He talked to me about any public information. Talked about actually the one of the victims about statements made. Said he was receiving calls from this defendant. I suggested we need to get some recordings about conversations if we can. Otherwise have one-on-one. AFter that the recording was made, our case came to really be a good case. Since done by our system, we certainly believe he should serve some time in state system. Don’t know when Oxford sentence iwll be. If not forthwith, ask this court to sentence him with time with MDOC.
ROBERTS – Will go ahead and accept pleas. We will conclude with whatever record needs to be made. Court finds factual basis for guilty pleas, all 14 (repeats each charge). Court finds the 14 pleas to separate charges were intelligently, freely made.
It is certainly efficient most times to immediatley follow plea with sentence. That might be true today. DA’s arguments are logical, make a lot of sense. Court respects them. Court is aware that this matter is ongoing since some date Oct. 2010, conducted preliminary hearing about then. I am aware that matter is pending for some time, numerous cases that involve federal system. Nothing that requires sentencing on tandem basis. Plea made in federal court, sentencing pending there. I don’t know when it will occur. I think best interests today would say that defer for some period of time, maybe after federal court sentence, maybe prior – depending on passage of time.
Defendant is in federal custody, where he shall remain. If he were to be released from fed custody, he will be in state custody, where no bond has or shall be set. He’s going to remain in custody. Considering that, he will remain that sentencing pending in fed court, I’m going to defer sentencing for some period of time. May be dependent on fed sentence. Doesn’t prevent Basham or Young to petition court for a sentence. Have right to do so. Think today, we should afford fed court 30-60-90 days. If either of you with to petition the court or court on its own, it will. Direct court reporter provide transcript to DA, Basham and to me.
Bowling will remain in federal custody.
Bowling, any questions about today? (Bowling – no your honor)
State, any of you? (Young – no your honor)
Commend all of you for hard work in difficult proceedings.
12:10 p.m. recess / Judge – Bowling, you have the best wishes of the court. Bowling taken from courtroom.