ATLANTA — The trial of a former Bibb County deputy accused of enticing a child for sex began Tuesday.
Gregory Todd Bowden, 43, of Byron, is accused of making arrangements in an online chat room to meet a mother and her 7-year-old daughter in Sandy Springs for sex. Unknown to him, he was chatting with an undercover FBI agent assigned to the Innocent Images Task Force.
In opening statements Tuesday morning in federal court, Bowden’s attorney said Bowden never believed the child was real or that she would be waiting for him when he arrived in Sandy Springs in 2009.
Instead, Bowden was planning on role playing with the woman he’d been chatting with using an incestuous fantasy, Macon attorney Franklin J. Hogue.
“He’s not proud of that. He’s shamed by that,” Hogue said. “But that is legal to do.”
But prosecutor Robert McBurney said Bowden had the intent to have sex with the fictional 7-year-old girl.
Sandy Springs police detective Elizabeth Concepcion, an FBI agent, testified she was monitoring a chat room in October 2008 when Bowden sent her a message. In an effort to catch individuals exploiting children, she portrayed a 30-year-old woman with a 7-year-old daughter.
In testimony that spanned at least three hours, Concepcion walked jurors through the chat room discussions, e-mails and phone conversations she had with Bowden between October 2008 and his arrest Feb. 11, 2009.
Jurors followed along on electronic monitors as McBurney and Concepcion read portions of sexually explicit chats and e-mails. They also viewed photos exchanged by the FBI agent and Bowden, including photos of a man’s genitals, a photo of Bowden’s face and a photo Concepcion sent Bowden portraying a woman and a child.
The conversation began with Bowden asking if Concepcion’s online identity, Tiff, would join an online role-playing relationship with Bowden and another person, she testified.
She replied saying that she was only interested in real-world activity. Over several chats, the conversation evolved to Bowden planning to meet Tiff and her daughter in Sandy Springs for sex, she said.
In chats and phone conversations, Bowden discussed how the girl would handle the situation, “good touch, bad touch” lessons taught in schools and assurance that the girl wouldn’t talk about the sexual encounter. On the morning of the planned meeting, Bowden called “Tiff” and said he was excited and nervous, but he also expressed concern.
“I don’t want to go to jail,” he said.
Concepcion testified she was waiting in the parking lot of a J. Christopher’s restaurant in Sandy Springs when Bowden circled the parking lot without parking. She said it looked like he was looking for police.
Police and FBI agents arrested him when he parked.
Michael Yoder, the FBI coordinator for Atlanta’s Innocent Images Task Force in February 2009, testified that Bowden told agents he didn’t think the girl was real.
But at some point in the FBI interview, Yoder said Bowden said he traveled to Atlanta to meet with “a 30ish-year-old woman and her daughter.”
Yoder said agents didn’t know Bowden was a Bibb County deputy until he told them he was “a cop” while he was being arrested.
In the days after his arrest, authorities seized a laptop computer from Bowden’s home and found 307 images of suspected child pornography, Concepcion testified.
David Freyman, a member of the FBI’s computer analysis response team, testified he found “registry cleaners” on Bowden’s computer that are used to erase a user’s online history.
While he didn’t find files of Bowden’s chats with Concepcion on the computer, he said he found references to them on the laptop.
He also found copies of other chats. At least one appeared to be with a father who claimed to being sexually active with his 12-year-old daughter.
Sexually explicit photos sent by both the father and Bowden also were recovered.
Freyman said he also found records of multiple chats in which Bowden and other people set a scene for sexual role-play discussions.
The prosecution rested its case Tuesday, and the defense is expected to begin this morning. Jury deliberations are expected to begin this afternoon.
If convicted, Bowden faces a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.