Former Central Command civilian protocol officer to plead guilty to sex charge

Published Jan. 26, 2013

TAMPA — A former civilian protocol officer at U.S. Central Command accused of sexually enticing a 17-year-old boy last year will plead guilty to a federal charge with a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 10 years, his attorney said Friday.

Stephen Governale, 49, of Tampa, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve, is scheduled to plead guilty in Orlando on Tuesday to a charge of having sexual activity with a minor, said his attorney, Cynthia Hawkins.

Hawkins declined to say why Governale, who has been jailed since his arrest in September, decided against contesting the charge at a trial that had been scheduled to open Feb. 1.

Governale had worked for CentCom at MacDill Air Force Base since 2008, though the command has said he did not work in any military capacity.

On his Facebook page, Governale had posted a 2010 photo showing him with the man he said was his boss at the time, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former chief of CentCom. Petraeus resigned as CIA director after his affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, was discovered by investigators last year.

The parents of the teen Governale is accused of enticing had alerted the FBI office in Maitland, near Orlando, to Facebook sex chats their son had been having with Governale, and provided the agency with copies of some of those messages, according to federal court records. The FBI then interviewed the boy.

Governale, who is married, met the boy in October 2009 through an organization affiliated with the military, records show.

The boy told law enforcement that he was invited to attend a conference in Brevard County in September 2010 and slept in the same bed with the officer, court records say. The boy said Governale rented a pornographic movie and both masturbated as they watched, records say.

The boy said he was invited to a second conference earlier this year where similar sexual activity took place, according to court records. Since that meeting, the pair shared sexually explicit messages on Facebook.

On Sept. 12, the boy and his parents gave the FBI permission for an agent to assume the boy's identity on Facebook, records say. The agent engaged Governale in additional, and explicit, conversation, records show.

Governale was arrested by federal marshals when he arrived at a supposed meeting with the teen at a Wendy's restaurant in Seminole County, records say.

Governale also served as a co-director of the Civil Air Patrol's Cadet Office School in Alabama.