Two weeks ago Michael Bowling, 48, formerly of Daytona North, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for molesting a 15-year-old girl who’d been at a sleepover with his stepdaughter at his Mondex trailer. Bowling was due in court Tuesday for docket sounding, the last step before trial, in a separate case, that one involving his step-daughter’s allegations that he had raped her since she was a pre-teen.
Bowling will not be appearing in court: Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark, who prosecuted the previous case, dropped the charges a few days after Circuit Judge Terence Perkins sentenced Bowling to prison.
Bowling faced two rape charges and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation–a first degree felony and two second degree felonies that exposed him to a total of 60 years in prison.
The state’s decision is not a surprise. The case was based on the testimony of the step-daughter, who had also testified in the first of the two trials that eventually ended in Bowling’s conviction on the molestation charges. The first ended in a mistrial. One of the likeliest reasons it did so is because of the step-daughter’s testimony regarding her own personal history involving Bowling. The prosecution opted to introduce those allegations into the first trial. But the girl proved unsure of herself and contradictory, and Assistant Public Defender Bill Bookhammer effectively impeached her–or made her appear not credible to the jury–enough that the jury could not convict Bowling on the related molestation charge.
In the second trial, the prosecution didn’t even call the step-daughter to the stand, upsetting Bowling greatly. The defense did, however. But the allegations regarding her relationship with Bowling were not permitted that time. Her testimony was strictly limited to what she had seen and known regarding Bowling’s behavior toward her friend. The strategy worked for the prosecution, and Bowling was found guilty on two charges.
Both alleged victims had to testify twice during the two trials. Both were repeatedly deposed, interviewed by detectives, interviewed by the Department of Children and Families and the Child Protection Team. The prosecutor doesn’t explain why charges are dropped, but it is possible that the second alleged victim has chosen no longer to go forward with yet another trial. It is also possible that the prosecution is making a tactical decision, avoiding another trial and the risk of an acquittal that could then weaken the state’s position in Bowling’s appeal.
Bowling has appealed his conviction to the Fifth District Court of Appeal. (He called his conviction and sentence a “travesty.”) Meanwhile, the state is left with a conviction that, absent a reversal on appeal, would have Bowling in prison for the next 16 years, assuming he can get out after serving 85 percent of his sentence. He accumulated 476 days of time already served as he awaited his trials at the Flagler County jail. He would be 64 upon his release from prison. For now, he remains at the county jail, awaiting his transfer to one of the Florida state prison system’s “reception” centers.