Assistant U.S. attorney charged in child sex sting
He flew from Florida for a 5-year-old girl, court records show

Pensacola News Journal | September, 17, 2007
By Kris Wernowsky

An assistant U.S. attorney from Pensacola is jailed in Detroit on federal charges that he flew to Michigan to have sex with a 5-year-old girl.

John David Roy Atchison, 53, of Shoreline Drive in Gulf Breeze was arrested about 5 p.m. Sunday at the Detroit Metropolitan International Airport on a charge of traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of having illicit sexual relations with a small child. 

Atchison made a court appearance Monday afternoon before a federal judge in the U.S. Eastern District of Michigan. He is expected for a detention hearing today.

He has worked in the U.S. attorney's office in Pensacola since the late 1980s, mostly handling asset forfeitures in criminal cases and civil cases in which the United States was a party. He's also president of the Gulf Breeze Sports Association, according to the organization's Web site.

According to the federal criminal complaint:

An undercover officer from the Macomb County Sheriff's Office created an online persona designed to identify people who were seeking illicit sexual contact with minors. The persona was that of a mother who was interested in letting men engage in sex with her minor children.

The agent, Linda Findlay, made contact with Atchison on Aug. 29 though online instant messaging software. During the conversation, Atchison referred to himself as "very much a family man."

Between Aug. 31 and Sept. 12, Atchison had almost daily contact with Findlay. During several conversations, he described various sexual acts he wanted to perform with Findlay's fictitious 5-year-old daughter.

He assured Findlay that the child wouldn't require any medical attention after the sexual acts took place.

"I'm always gentle and loving; not to worry; no damage ever; no rough stuff ever, ever," he said, according to the complaint.

Pressed on how he could be sure, he responded: "I've done it plenty."

Days before traveling to Michigan, he told the undercover officer to tell the 5-year-old, "You found her a sweet boyfriend who will bring her presents."

Atchison took a Continential flight to Houston on Sunday morning, changed planes and arrived in Detroit at 4:52 p.m. He was taken into custody without incident as he got off the plane.

On Monday, the Detroit Free Press newspaper reported that Athchison cast his eyes downward and fiddled with papers at the hearing on Monday. He asked for a court-appointed attorney before he obtains one of his own.

If convicted, Atchison could face up to 60 years in prison.

Prosecutors said his online statements could lead to further investigations.
News of the arrest quickly spread through Gulf Breeze. Atchison's wife, Barbara, teaches at Gulf Breeze High School.

Gulf Breeze City Manager Edwin "Buz" Eddy, who has known Atchison for more than a decade, said he considered him a "pillar of the community" and an "upstanding guy."

"I'm shocked," Eddy said. "That's about all I can say. I hope this is something that can be cleared up by some explanation. What that might be, I don't know."

Atchison was one of five members of a committee who chose Peter Paulding as Gulf Breeze police chief, succeeding John Morgan.

On Monday, Paulding called the case "kryptonite." He said he did not want to comment further out of respect to Atchison's wife and children.

Pensacola attorney Robert T. Bleach, who recently settled a federal complaint in which Atchison represented the Unied States, said Atchison always carried himself professionally.

"He seemed like a typical U.S. attorney, very straight-laced, always very formal at all times," Bleach said. "I never would have suspected him involved in something like this in a million years."

U.S. Attorney Greg Miller had no immediate comment, said Dixie Morrow, a spokeswoman for the office.