Sex offender given suspended sentence, probation

Published February 1, 2007

INVERNESS - The former program director at a popular Orlando radio station threw himself at the mercy of a Citrus judge Wednesday, and mercy was given.

Gary S. Wheeler, also known as Adam Cook from the Top 40 station WXXL-FM 106.7, pleaded no contest to charges that he used the Internet to lure a child for sex and send sexually explicit photographs to a Citrus County sheriff's detective posing as a 14-year-old girl.

Circuit Judge Ric Howard gave the 49-year-old Longwood resident a suspended 15-year prison sentence, meaning Wheeler won't see a jail cell if he successfully completes 15 years of sex offender probation.

Howard also ordered him to pay $3,000 in fines, undergo electronic monitoring and register as a sex offender.

The sentence was a departure from the minimum 26 months and maximum 15 years behind bars. Howard said the lesser sentence was warranted because Wheeler immediately confessed his crimes and cooperated with investigators during his arrest.

Court records state that Wheeler arrived at Hernando Beach Park on Jan. 10, 2006, to have sex with a 14-year-old to whom he had sent sexual messages and exchanged lewd pictures within an Internet chat room.

The conversations, which took place while he was at work, began about nine months earlier, and Wheeler often steered the conversations toward sex, according to the arrest report. During the chat, he asked the detective posing as a girl: "Are you sure you wanna fool around with me?"

He also described explicit sexual acts that he wanted to perform on the girl, reports state.

When Wheeler arrived at the county park in his 2000 Chevy Blazer, he walked toward the bathroom area, where he was taken into custody by detectives.

Defense attorneys said Wheeler immediately saw a psychologist. "He is not somebody who we believe is a threat to commit this offense ever again," said David Johnson, an Orlando attorney.

With his wife in court supporting him, Wheeler apologized for his actions, saying that he is "looking for a new start."

"I wish I could turn back time," he said. "Even as I was driving over here, something in my head was telling me to turn around. But I didn't listen."

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or 860-7312.