Fla. AUSA Busted in Child Sex Sting

Yesterday I read about John David "Roy" Atchison, the Assistant U.S. Attorney in Florida who was arrested in a sex sting in Detroit after flying there allegedly hoping to have sex with a five year old girl.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has issued this statement. They refer to him as a "civil attorney" while the Detroit Free Press said he handled both criminal and civil cases.

The facts are ugly. You can read the criminal complaint here. My first thought was he needed to be put on a suicide watch.

He's now got a terrific lawyer, James Thomas of Detroit. Jim got him taken off the suicide watch saying he's confident it's not necessary. He also waived the detention hearing, which means Atchison will be held without bond pending trial or reconsideration.

The grand jury has already returned a three count indictment against him, available here(pdf). One of the charges carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 30 years.

I'm sure some will try to turn this into a political story but I don't see it that way -- unless he prosecuted and convicted others for child sex crimes while committing them himself. If he did these disgusting things, I see a sick man who needs help.

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    The only help he needs is a 30-year jail sentence. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Geekesque on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 03:52:21 PM EST
    He was paying for the opportunity to rape a small child.   Sure it's sick, but it's also evil.

    Correction: (none / 0) (#4)
    by Geekesque on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 03:55:18 PM EST
    Apparently he was hoping to get to rape the kid for free.  So he's a cheap predator, if the allegations are true.

    Yes... (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 02:11:03 AM EST
    If he did these disgusting things, I see a sick man who needs help.
    This is the kind of a crime that so thoroughly disgusts and revolts people that it can easily cause the kind of very emotional knee-jerk reactions like "lock him up up forever and throw the key away" or "execute him" or "the guys an animal - show no mercy" that we often see touted as shortcuts for justice or "instant" solutions to complex problems.

    None of which would help the victim or the victims family or anyone else in any other way than using overwhelming force to try to make sure he could never have the opportunity to do it again, but would not have any positive effect on the girl or remove Atchison's desires that might motivate him to do this again if ever given the chance.

    If he did these disgusting things, I see a sick man who needs help indeed, much as, if he's guilty, what he has done turns my stomach.

    It's deep breath and think twice time...

    The knee jerk responses are rational (none / 0) (#30)
    by Answerman on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 09:36:44 AM EST
    If he is guilty he WILL DO THIS AGAIN if he has the chance.  Despite the ignorance in research using recidivism rates as reoffending rates stating that child sexual predators do not reoffend, they do reoofend on an incredily large scale.  Look at the numbers.  Of 1000 children sexually abused in the US there are 3.9 convictions.  The sverage criminal of any type learns from their conviction how to become a better criminal and not get caught.  Now, with the research that makes people support the poor misunderstood child molestor, recidivism rates are about 10% with sexual offenders.  So that means that there is actually (at the least)a 250% reoffending rate. Treatment does not work, despite the research done by those who make their money of of treating them and use the same faulty recidivism rates as their basis.



    Bad facts (none / 0) (#1)
    by atlanta lawyer on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 03:30:47 PM EST
    There was also a Atlanta metro area cop arrested on sex charges yesterday (Clayton Co. ).  My first thought on both of them was, maybe when police and DA's get wrapped up in these things, some of the vitriol will subside.  But, as it's been reported, it's hard to have sympathy for this guy.  The facts are bad. As for the Clayton Co. cop, he was getting on his computer on duty, in uniform, and sending images of himself to what he thought were 12 year olds. So one story is really ugly, the other really stupid.

    very ugly facts (none / 0) (#2)
    by txpublicdefender on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 03:40:41 PM EST
    The facts are very ugly, indeed.  Setting aside the horrid allegations, it is amazing to me that an AUSA, who KNOWS that these stings are being run regularly, would take such a risk.  This guy needs serious help.

    What can a 5 year old do for you? (none / 0) (#5)
    by avahome on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 04:01:39 PM EST
    This sting only proves that titles really mean nothing.......priests, lawyers, etc.  Don't diddle with kids......! Parents need to get their acts together.....trust but verify!

    If John David "Roy" Atchison (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 07:10:28 PM EST
    was not an Assistant U.S. Attorney, i.e., prosecutor, wouldn't the discussion here center on entrapment defense, victimless crime, etc.  

    Entrapment rarely works (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 01:48:16 AM EST
    as a defense in this case and how can you call planning to sexually assault a 5 year old a victimless crime?  The only defense I can see right now is if he claims he was conducting his own sting investigation. Which, of course, won't work either.

    I gathered from the article the FBI (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by oculus on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 02:01:46 AM EST
    floated the idea of a mother offering her 5 year old but there were no actual mother and child.  

    edger, you're right, (none / 0) (#11)
    by cpinva on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 04:01:01 AM EST
    if mr. atchison is found guilty of these crimes, nothing done to him will, in the least, help any of his victims. so what? putting him away for a long, long time will stop anyone else from being victimized by him. it will also punish him for the harm he's done.

    agreed, he's clearly ill, but he also clearly knows what he's doing is wrong. if he didn't, he'd be upfront about it, instead of sneaking around. give him treatment in jail, the same level given to those he's convicted and incarcerated.

    seems only fair.

    had i my way, he'd be sent to the dry tortugas for the rest of his natural life. if proven to have actually harmed a child, he should be executed, expeditiously.

    normally, i'm opposed to capital punishment. i make an exception for child predators. i realize that makes me something of a hypocrite. i can live with it.

    I understand the feelings, cpinva (none / 0) (#12)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 06:52:51 AM EST
    I feel the same way. Which is why I say I think it's deep breath and think twice time, and it has to be a conscious effort on my part.

    It's not the kind of disease I think that is deterred by threats of long prison terms or anything else. I might be wrong, and I'm not even bothering to find clinical studies to back this up - but I would bet that it's more on the level of nearly if not completely uncontrollable compulsion without treatment of some kind.

    Analogous (barely) to Tourettes or other diseases being nearly if not completely uncontrollable compulsion without treatment of some kind, prison terms or punishment of any kind is not only not helpful but probably outright harmful, and maybe even immoral and serves only to satisfy desires for revenge?

    Re: "give him treatment in jail, the same level given to those he's convicted and incarcerated", this one has a hidden trap to it. I'd love to see Bush and Cheney, for example, in prison for war crimes - but I would want them treated better than the level of treatment given to those they've incarcerated....

    I think Atchison's actions need to make us question ourselves as much if not more than condemning him, with a  result oriented mindset - what can we do to achieve the best possible result - not necessarily the quickest, easiest, cheapest, or most emotionally satisfying result.


    He Won't Live Long (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by squeaky on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 10:07:54 AM EST
    In jail. Between his job and his crime it will be like throwing meat into a tank of phirrana.

    Oh yeah, definitely. (none / 0) (#14)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 10:13:49 AM EST
    A two week sentence would be a death sentence.

    If convicted and sentenced to prison, (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by oculus on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 10:37:12 AM EST
    he will be in protective custody.

    How hard is for a guard to look the other way (none / 0) (#17)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 10:40:39 AM EST
    for one second?

    Is there an emoticon for "cynic"? (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by oculus on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 11:12:09 AM EST
    Heh! (none / 0) (#22)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 11:17:56 AM EST
    Actually, I handled a case where a (none / 0) (#23)
    by oculus on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 11:19:49 AM EST
    parolee bashed a man to death with the brush from a push broom.  Both were in the day room of a pre-trial detention facility.  The victim was accused of child molest.

    Happens fast when it happens, huh? (none / 0) (#24)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 11:21:13 AM EST
    It took quite a bit of bashing. Not sure why (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by oculus on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 11:23:28 AM EST
    no person in charge saw a thing.

    P.S.  Best part of the civil case I handled was when I described for the record the parolees tatoos, which were extensive.  I sd., so the scar from the surgery was where the two hearts intersect on your forearm?  He sd., ma'am, those are skulls.


    My point exactly... (none / 0) (#26)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 11:26:00 AM EST
    "no person in charge saw a thing"

    effective treatment (none / 0) (#18)
    by Ivyfree on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 10:51:41 AM EST
    No claims to be an expert here, but I've never heard of any treatment that would be effective. And I do not see this as similar to Tourette's in any way.  The man had a discussion with who he thought was the child's mother.  He answered her concerns for possible harm to the child. He arranged for a flight. He brought a toy along.  This wasn't a random, sudden, uncontrollable urge: this was a planned rape.

    Putting the guy in jail for a minimum of 30 years will prevent him from ever trying this again.  If he petitions to be executed, I'd be fine with that.  No, it wouldn't unenflict the crime he was hoping to commit, had there been an actual child involved.  But if he had indeed raped a little girl (which he claimed he has), it will ensure that the little girl could grow up knowing that the man who did this didn't get away with it. And ultimately, I care a lot more for that hypothetical little girl than I do for a child rapist.


    Not "similar" at all to Tourettes (none / 0) (#19)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 11:10:16 AM EST
    I was drawing a rough analogy to uncontrollable complusion.

    Yes it was planned. It takes, in my view, a very strong uncontrollable complusion to carry through with that kind of planning.

    I don't know what kind of treatment short of castration that would be effective. Maybe there are other treatments, I don't know.

    I don't think he'll last 30 years in prison. Or even 30 days. Maybe not even 30 minutes.

    I'm not by any means defending or excusing what he did. It's revolting. But I suspect it is just as likely that he would die at the hands of a guard while other guards look the other way as at the hands of other inmates.

    I think that there is a good chance that putting him in prison will not be a solution and will do little more than create a murder. And a murderer.


    correction: "accused of doing" (none / 0) (#21)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 11:15:02 AM EST
    Sure it would be a solution. (none / 0) (#28)
    by Geekesque on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 12:38:12 PM EST
    He'd never get the chance to rape another child.

    Let him serve time in solitary till he's 80, and then forbid him from taking Viagra.


    You don't really believe (none / 0) (#29)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 12:48:04 PM EST
    he would live to see 80 in prison for this, do you. Or even last a few months.

    He'll be held in protective segregation (none / 0) (#16)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 10:40:24 AM EST
     awaiting trial or whatever disposition. That said he might face the highest risk while in a local facility awaiting disposition. some of the places with which the Marshal's office contracts to house people are not run so well.

     If convicted he will be  designated to a super max type  unit to prevent his being exposed to those in a general population who would harm him. He'll likely be locked up alone for 23 hours a day (maybe 47 of 48) and even his shower and rec time will be solo  under heavy security.

      He might wish he was dead, but the BOP does a surprisingly  good job of keeping its wards alive. He'll be  a lot safer in federal custody than he likely would be in Florida or Michigan custody.

      I think his only remotely viable defense is neither entrapment nor "I was doing my own investigation." I've never heard of an Assistant United States Attorneys  doing  field work -- the law enforecement agencies do that-- and it certainly  would NEVER happen that one was doing so without the knowledge and authorization of his boss.  

       The only avenue  I can see is that there may be   some ability to raise questions as to whether the electronic messages attributed to him can be authenticated as being his words together with some other explanation for his "coincidental" arrival in Michigan. That's the thinnest of reeds upon which to base a defense no doubt but if your choice is pleading to a 30 year minimum  and you are in your 50s, you don't have a lot to lose. It would not seem likely that he is going to be on the receiving end of an attractive plea offer. He's more likely to be "made an example."