TAMPA — A former Lakeland firefighter and police officer pleaded guilty Monday to charges that he touched a teenage girl in a lewd manner and encouraged several teens to perform sex acts while he watched.
David Lee Bishop, 43, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and 12 years of sex-offender probation. He will be a registered sex offender.
He pleaded guilty to one count of encouraging lewd and lascivious battery, one count of soliciting lewd and lascivious conduct and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct.
Prosecutors said he touched one girl sexually, then recruited several of her friends to have sex while he watched from a closet. All of the girls were under the age of 15.
He initially faced more than a dozen charges and decades in prison, but prosecutors dropped most of the charges in exchange for the guilty plea.
Defense attorney Mike Butash said there was no physical evidence against his client, and it took more than a year for the alleged crimes to be reported.
However, other young women had previously accused Bishop of similar acts, and there was a chance they could have testified at trial. Those allegations would have been hard to overcome, Butash said.
"In every case, there comes a time to fish or cut bait," Butash said.
One of the women who had previously accused Bishop of sexually abusing her but was not listed as a victim in this case spoke to Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett in court Monday.
"He may have to serve this sentence, but we carry what he did to us forever," she said.
Bishop worked as a firefighter from July 1987 to February 1991, records show. He worked as a police officer from August 1991 to March 1993, when he was fired.
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3337.