No mercy for man, 72, in porn case

Turned in by his wife and son, he gets the maximum sentence.

By KEVIN GRAHAM, Times Staff Writer
Published November 17, 2007

TAMPA - Roger Stowell pleaded with a federal judge Friday for a prison sentence that would allow him to spend the final years of his life surrounded by loved ones, not inmates.

"I don't want to die in jail," the 72-year-old Tampa man said. "I want to spend my last useful years with people who care about me and who will be willing to care for me."

Stowell said those people wouldn't be his immediate family.

His wife and his son turned him in to authorities in April after they found child pornography on his home computer.

"I forgive them for what they've done," he said, "because they did what they thought was the right thing to do."

Stowell's attorney said in court that life expectancy charts indicate his client has about 10 years to live. And his health is fading, said assistant federal Public Defender Adam Allen.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday was unmoved.

He gave Stowell the maximum prison time outlined in the sentencing guidelines - 171/2 years in federal prison for pleading guilty to two counts of possessing child pornography.

The judge also ordered Stowell to register with the state as a sex offender.

"I conclude that this defendant is a persistent and dangerous predator," Merryday said. "His better judgment ... is overcome by impulses that lead him in a destructive manner into the life of those who are not able to defend themselves."

Friday's sentencing concluded what began during an Oct. 24 hearing, when the mother of a boy who accused Stowell of molesting him more than 25 years ago testified.

At the time, Stowell was vice principal at Berlin American High School in Germany. The boy, who was 13, accused Stowell of molesting him during a camping trip in 1982.

Stowell was never charged with a crime then but was fired nonetheless. He sued for wrongful termination, and the school settled the case. Allen said in court Friday that Stowell was reinstated and received about $100,000 in back pay on the condition that he resign.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hoffer said Stowell also was accused of molestation by another boy in 1969. That case was investigated, he said, but Stowell was never charged.

"This defendant has caused uncalculated or untold damage," Hoffer said.

Stowell had a rough childhood, which probably contributed to the behavior leading to his arrest in April, Allen said. His mother was emotionally and physically abusive. She once poured kerosene down his throat, Allen said.

"I made some pretty serious mistakes for reasons that have nothing to do with pornography or anything like that," Stowell told the judge. "They are reasons pretty hard to explain."

While Stowell doesn't deny the 1969 or 1982 allegations, Allen said he maintains his innocence in those cases.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or 813 226-3433.