Prosecutor's sex-sting arrest shocks town
© 2007 New York Times News Service
GULF BREEZE, Fla. - To neighbors
here, J.D. Roy Atchison was a deft fed-
eral prosecutor, an involved father and
a devoted volunteer, coaching girls's soft-
ball and basketball teams year in and
His wife is
a popular science teacher;
his youngest daughter, an honors stu-
dent who was on her high-school home-
coming court last year. Their house,
with rocking chairs on the porch, oaks
in the yard and a wrought-iron fence,
is among the prettiest in town.
But in an instant last week, the com-
munity pillar became an object of com-
munity loathing. Atchison, 53, was ar-
rested getting off a plane in Detroit on
Sept. 16 and charged with the un-
thinkable. The authorities there said
he was carrying a doll and petroleum jel-
ly, and that he had arranged with an un-
dercover agent to have sex with a 5-
Now Atchison is awaiting trial in a
federal prison in Michigan, and the peo-
ple of Gulf Breeze, an affuent bayside
suburb in the Florida Panhandle, are
outraged, baffled and repulsed.
"He had an excellent reputation," said
Barry Beroset, a criminal-defense
lawyer in Pensacola who has known
Atchison for 15 years. "He was very
businesslike and appeared to be a very
good man, no question about it."
Ronald Johnson, a defense lawyer in
Pensacola, Fla., who has worked with
described him as "fairly
intellectual," adding: "Sometimes he
was a little eccentric, but
perverted or weird. Just a little
Pressed, Johnson could not
elaborate. In fact, no one could
describe Atchison in a way that
generalities. In interviews
around this town of 6,450, the phrase
"nice guy" came up a lot. Edwin A.
Eddy, the city manager, said he was "no
more charismatic than anybody else"
and "not any quieter or more gregarious
than anyone else."
Eddy said he had scoured his mem-
ory for any clue that Atchison, who he
said seemed "as straight as they come,"
"I constantly think about all the in-
teractions I had with Mr. Atchison over
they years," said Eddy, who coached soft-
ball with him, "and I think, 'Should I
have been able to see something?'"
What the authorities saw in the In-
ternet sting operation that led to Atchi-
son's arrest was a man who led a second
life as "f1daddy04," the moniker on a Ya-
hoo profile traced to him. "I adore
everything about young girls," the pro-
file says, "how they talk, think, act, walk,
The police in Michigan said that
Atchison had been chatting online for
two weeks with an
tive for the Macomb County Sheriff's
Department, who posed as a mother
offering to let men have sex with her
young daughter. When she expressed
concern that sex could injure the girl,
according to court documents, Atchi-
son responded, "I'm always gentle and
loving; not to worry; no damage ever;
no rough stuff ever ever."
He added, "I've done it plenty."
People here found that statement es-
pecially chilling, though the Gulf Breeze
Police Department said that so far, no
one here has come forward with accu-
sations of abuse.
"There's so many unanswered ques-
tions," said Deputy Police Chief Robert
Atchison has worked at the smal U.S.
Attorney's Office in Pensacola since the
1980's, most recently handling asset for-
feitures in criminal cases as an assis-
tant U.S. attorney. In one high-profile
case, Atchison oversaw the government
seizure of a popular beach bar at the
center of a cocaine-trafficking ring.
His is considered one of the most con-
servative U.S. attorney's office in the
country, known for refusing plea agree-
ments and seeking
the stiffest sen-
Johnson said that Atchison was close
with the other prosecutors in his office,
going with some on an annual lobster-
driving trip in the Florida Keys. A big
white fishing boat sat in his otherwise-
empty driveway this week. His inter-
ests, according to the Yahoo profile that
the police said was his, include "surf-
ing, skiing, diving, boating, young girls,
petite girls, skinny girls."
The FBI, which is working with Ma-
comb County in the investigation, said
that in one of his last e-mail exchanges
with the undercover agent, Atchison
told her to tell her daughter that "you
found her a sweet boyfriend who will
bring her presents."
Atchison has pleaded not guilty to
charges of traveling across state lines to
have sex with a child under 12, using the
Internet to entice a minor and travel-
ing to another state to engage in illicit
sex. He could face life in prison if con-
He tried to hang himself with a bed
sheet in his jail cell last week after as-
suring his lawyer and a judge that he
would not harm himself.
The Police in Michigan said
that Atchison had
been chatting online for two weeks with an
undercover detective for the Macomb County
Sheriff's Department, who posed as a mother
offering to let men have sex with her daughter.