Federal Prosecutor Arrested In Child Internet Sex Sting Attempts Suicide

Thursday, September 20th 2007, 11:33 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ A federal prosecutor from Florida who authorities say flew to Michigan for a sexual encounter with a 5-year-old girl tried to hang himself in his jail cell Thursday but was stopped in time, the sheriff said.

John D.R. Atchison, 53, used a sheet in an attempted hanging around 4 a.m., said Sanilac County Sheriff Virgil Strickler.

Another inmate yelled out to jailers, who kept Atchison from hurting himself, Strickler said.

The 119-bed Sanilac County Jail is in Sandusky, about 75 miles north of Detroit. U.S. marshals sometimes use it to house federal prisoners. Marshals moved Atchison after the suicide attempt, the sheriff said. Atchison's destination was not known.

The married father of three is an assistant U.S. attorney based in Pensacola, Fla., and president of a youth sports association in Gulf Breeze.

He was arrested Sunday and was initially placed on a suicide watch, but the watch was lifted at the request of the defense, after Atchison assured a U.S. magistrate Tuesday he wouldn't harm himself.

Atchison was arrested at Detroit Metropolitan Airport after arriving for a meeting with someone authorities say Atchison thought was the mother of a 5-year-old girl with whom he allegedly arranged to have sex. The woman was actually a Macomb County sheriff's detective participating in an Internet sex sting operation.

Atchison was charged with three felonies, the most serious of which is crossing state lines with intent to have sex with someone under 12. Conviction carries a minimum 30-year prison sentence and a maximum of life.

His defense lawyer, James C. Thomas, has declined to comment on the arrest. He told the Detroit News that he regretted asking for the suicide watch to be lifted.

Atchison's boss, U.S. Attorney Gregory R. Miller, said in a statement earlier this week that his office was cooperating with the investigation. He said staff members were ``deeply saddened by the arrest.''