To close a loop (something we don't often get to do) on a story we picked up on a few weeks ago, the Assistant U.S. Attorney from northern Florida, John David R. Atchison, who was arrested in a sting in September for attempting to have sex with a 5-year old girl, has committed suicide in federal prison.
Atchison had previously tried to kill himself just days after being arrested at the Detroit airport where he had flown to a federal agent he had believed to be the little girl's mother.
"Just gotta go slow and very easy. I've done it plenty," Atchison reportedly told the "mother" before he left Florida, after the agent in the string operation had expressed concerns to Atchison about injury to the little girl.
In AP's report on the AUSA's death, they described him as a family man, whose attorney hopes he'll be remembered for "a lot of good in his life"...
A statement released Friday by his lawyer, James Thomas, said Atchison had "done a lot of good in his life."
"Unfortunately, he is going to be judged by his most recent charges and what we have read in the media, and not by the goodness, hard work or by the love of his family," the statement read.
ED NOTE about the sub-headline, from our initial quick coverage of the arrest last month, intimating that Atchison was a Republican...
When we filed our quickie report last month, we casually tossed in the following question in our sub-header: "What is It About Florida Republicans and Sex With Children?"
Shortly after using that sub-header, we were asked how we knew that Atchison was a Republican, and realized, in fact, that we didn't. Rather, we had made the presumption at the time based on his being an AUSA in the Bush Administration. While it seemed a fairly safe guess at the time, it was only a guess and one that we didn't actually realize we were making, in fact, when we made it.
After the question came up, it occured to us that we didn't know his politics for certain. While we didn't have a lot of time (or inclination) to dig into the details of this particular story, we were able to check with a former US Attorney who told us that, in truth, it's impossible to know the politics of an AUSA based solely on who he or she worked for.
While AUSAs are hired by incumbent USAs, we were told, they serve thereafter as career federal employees, in many cases, throughout several subsequent administrations.
To make even an educated guess about the politics of an AUSA, one would have to know who hired him or her, and even that would be a poorly educated guess if the USA hired the AUSA properly, and didn't take politics into account as is the proper procedure for hiring.
All of that in mind, The NY Times reported, shortly after Atchison's arrest, that he'd "worked at the small United States Attorney’s Office in Pensacola since the 1980s." Thus, one might assume he was hired during either the Reagan or George H.W. Bush administration.
Further, they write: "His is considered one of the most conservative United States attorney’s offices in the country, known for refusing plea agreements and seeking the stiffest sentences."
Nothing conclusive there, obviously, but certainly notable.
And finally, a commenter at dKos at the time of Atchison's arrest (and it's an anonymous commenter, who did not post supporting evidence or links, so take it for what it's worth), reported being "pretty certain" that Atchison was a registered Republican...
The same commenter claimed later in the thread that his source was "Florida Division of Elections voter file as of 3/31/07 (these are public record and available for purchase)."
As mentioned, we're not inclined in this case to go to the effort of getting at those records to confirm.
Either way, one would think, with the various coverage of such a heinous crime, and others making the same speculation (responsibly or otherwise) that we did concerning his politics, someone in the GOP would have gone out of their way to make it clear that Atchison was not a Republican by now, had that been the case. Particularly given the rash of various sex crimes by Republican officials of late.
To our knowledge, there has been no such denial issued.
So make of all of that what you will, with our note that no, we don't know for certain that he was a Republican. Even it seems at least as certain now as it did last month when we first made our accidentally presumptuous statement that he was.