CROWN POINT — A former Porter County police officer accused of having a nude photograph of a 17-year-old girl with whom he allegedly had a sexual relationship pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and could avoid jail time.
Roger Bowles, 59, admitted to one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a class A misdemeanor, for providing alcohol to a person younger than 21.
In exchange for his plea, Senior Special Prosecutor David Thomas agreed to dismiss a felony count of possessing child pornography and a misdemeanor count of furnishing alcohol to a minor.
When Lake Superior Court Judge Nicholas Schiralli asked whether the parties were dropping the child pornography charges, several people in the court gallery gasped.
Bowles' defense attorney, John Vouga, said his client had no criminal history, was clearly remorseful and suffered broken bones and other work-related injuries during a 17-year career in law enforcement.
Bowles met the girl while they both were working security and traffic control during the 2015 Porter County Fair and sexual contact between them began after the 2016 fair, according to court records.
Thomas was appointed special prosecutor and the case was transferred to Lake County because Bowles worked with Porter County prosecutors as a detective at the Porter County Sheriff's Department. He is no longer employed as a sheriff's deputy. Indiana State Police investigated the case.
Thomas said the woman, who is now in her 20s, approved of the plea agreement and wanted to avoid a trial.
The plea agreement called for Bowles to be sentenced to one year in jail, with all but time served suspended in favor of probation. He also must complete 40 hours of community service.
Bowles apologized to the woman and her family.
"I take responsibility for my actions," he said.
Schiralli said he would accept the plea agreement because it was what the woman wanted.
"Your conduct is shameful," he said. "You had a nice career, a good name, and you threw it all away. You harmed a young girl."
The judge also warned Bowles that even the smallest violation of probation could land him in jail.