William Leonard Abbate, a Henry County businessman recently arrested on child molestation charges, was scheduled to be released from the Henry County Jail on a $100,000 bond, with conditions.
Abbate, 45, dressed in an orange county jail uniform, wiped away tears as Henry County Superior Court Judge Arch McGarity made the announcement, during a bond hearing Wednesday. He was arrested Aug. 18, and charged with child molestation, aggravated child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes, sexual exploitation of children and statutory rape.
The alleged offenses reportedly took place on March 17, 2010, at his home in McDonough, or on his farm in Butts County, according to police.
When released, Abbate must wear a satellite monitor both day and night. He cannot have contact with his alleged victim, or witnesses in the case; he must surrender his passport; his cellphone will be monitored by the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, and he is banned from traveling to Virginia, where his alleged victim now lives.
Abbate’s attorney, Steven Lister, and Henry County Senior Assistant District Attorney James L. Wright, III, debated Abbate’s release before McGarity issued his ruling. Lister told the court his client worked as a Glock shooting instructor, training Special Weapons and Tactics teams in Butts, Clayton, and Henry counties, as well the Special Response Team of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.
“Mr. Abbate has a U.S. passport he would be anxious to surrender upon any bond being granted,” Lister told the judge. “We would suggest a substantial bond be given because of the seriousness of the offenses ... We are open to any conditions you attach to the bond.”
When the judge questioned Lister about having any witnesses, on Abbate’s behalf, in court, the attorney had a group of 14 people to stand. Lister said the group was made up of members of Abbate’s family, friends and business supporters. Among them was his pregnant sister, Katrina, “a single mother who looks for Abbate to support her,” said Lister.
Wright told the court one of the criteria it needs to take into consideration is “the serious nature of the charges made against the defendant. The victim at the time of these offenses was 14 years old, she was brought in as a person for the defendant to train. She traveled with the defendant to put on firearm training demonstrations for Glock,” said Wright. “Mr. Abbate was married at the time of the incident. After the wife noticed suspicious activity, she began to have conversations with the victim.”
Wright also revealed that there were alleged instances of inappropriate behavior between the victim and Abbate, outside Georgia, in California, Missouri, Virginia, and Florida. “Virginia has already started criminal proceedings,” he said.
The victim is in Virginia with her family, added Wright. “The victim thought there was a relationship between her and Mr. Abbate. She showed up with $5,000, and a passport at an attorney’s office in Virginia. So, there are still some feelings there on behalf of the victim.
“It would not take much for the defendant to convince the victim to leave with him,” said Wright in his pleadings.
Wright said there were four search warrants issued in the Abbate case, and items were seized from a “cabin or house” in Butts County. Among the items found were those used in sexual contact with the victim, he said investigators reported.
“The hard drive on a computer police confiscated was missing,” he said.
Wright also said there was a “third party” who traveled with the victim as a guardian, on different trips. “That third party saw explicit photos of the victim and the defendant,” he continued.
According to Wright, Abbate threatened the “third party,” by telling her he would show text messages about her marital issues to her husband. “I do have copies of those text messages,” said Wright.
Wright maintained that, if Abbate were given a bond, he had the monetary ability to flee. “In his own motion, he stated he owns two private aircrafts, he wouldn’t need a passport to fly,” Wright said. “Police were able to obtain the defendant’s cell phone, and they found an explicit photo of a sexual nature of the victim in this case.”
Judge McGarity said he did not believe Abbate was a flight risk.
“I have allowed bonds in murder cases, and it has not been a problem,” said the judge. “The victim is in Virginia, having him in jail will not stop them from coming back to Georgia.”