Athens man who accused nurse of aggravated sodomy has long criminal past

Howard Michael Gowan

An Athens man who accused a nurse of aggravated sodomy last year has compiled an array of arrests going back nearly 30 years, with dozens of charges including drug possession of marijuana, cocaine, MDMA, meth and heroin; multiple traffic violations; battery; theft; false reporting of a crime; and obstruction of law enforcement officers.

Howard Michael Gowen, also known as Howard B. Gowen, Howard B. Gowan, Howard Michael Burnham Gowen, Howard Gowen II and John Larry Good, according to court documents, was first arrested on possession of a controlled substance in North Carolina in 1987, and has been incarcerated at times in the several years since, with jail visits in North Carolina, Florida and Georgia, according to court documents.

Gowen told Athens-Clarke County police that on Nov. 17, 2014, a nurse at Athens Regional Medical Center performed a sexual act on him with force and against his will while he was in the recovery unit following surgery, according to court documents. In September, a Clarke County grand jury chose not to indict the nurse on the charges brought against him by police, and District Attorney Ken Mauldin said the grand jury’s decision essentially brings an end to the charges against the nurse.

The Athens-Banner Herald reported Gowen’s attorney, R. Douglas Lenhardt, saying his client “was confused, scared and angry” about the alleged sexual assault and “he talked it over with his family members and decided to report it to police early the next morning.”

Court records reveal in a petition for a temporary protective order that the next day, Nov. 18, 2014, a woman came to the hospital wanting to talk to Gowen’s sister about her dog, but when his sister was not there, spoke to Gowen instead. According to the document, the woman was sitting on Gowen’s bed when she “tried to get up to leave, respondent [Gowen] wrapped his arm around her neck and strangled her and her vision went funny. A nurse walked in and the respondent acted like he was kissing petitioner’s head.”

The document goes on the state that Gowen “has strangled petitioner in the past between 20 and 30 times. During the course of their five-month relationship, the respondent has strangled, slapped, bit, restrained, held down, burned, tied up, used weapons, sexually assaulted, threatened to kill, stalked/harasses, displayed jealous behavior, and forced petitioner to ingest unknown substances.”

The court ordered Gowen to stop harassing the woman, have no direct contact with her and stay 100 yards away from her. A civil restraining order was put in place in December 2014, to be in effect for three years.

The accused nurse’s attorney, Kevin Epps, told Clarke County Superior Court in September that he uncovered information that Gowen may have falsely accused a healthcare provider in the past. Specifically, the attorney said, he learned Athens Orthopedic Clinic may have video of Gowen being brought into the clinic in a wheelchair, then throw himself onto the floor. Gowen accused a nurse of throwing him from the wheelchair, Epps told the judge.

“If that video exists I would love to get my hands on it,” Epps told the judge.

Mauldin said his office is “not looking at this time” at charging Gowen with a crime involving his accusations against the nurse.

Gowen’s most recent arrest occurred in September, when he was arrested in Oconee County with two others and charged with possession of methamphetamine. The arrest put Gowen in violation of parole for a 2012 conviction of theft by receiving stolen property, where he negotiated a plea of five years probation under first-offender probation status for the March 2010 incident.

Following an appearance Tuesday before Superior Court Judge Lawton Stephens, Gowen returned to the ACC jail for the probation violation, and was sentenced to 30 days in jail to be suspended upon acceptance to a residential substance abuse treatment program.

In the years leading up to his conviction, Gowen pleaded guilty in Athens-Clarke County to possession of marijuana in 2009 (which was consolidated with the theft conviction) and disorderly conduct in 2008, where he was accused of acting “in a violent and tumultuous manner” against a woman, according to court documents.

In the years since Gowen’s five-year probationary period began, he’s been charged with a probation violation for assaulting a woman in North Carolina (January 2013), driving with a suspended license (July 2013), accused of stalking and filing a false report of a crime (March 2013) and violating probation again by e-mailing a woman he was barred from contacting (March 2014), according to ACC court documents.

On several occasions, charges against Gowen in Athens-Clarke County were not pursued or dropped to lesser charges by prosecutors. In November 2006, Gowen was charged with simple assault, possession of marijuana and tampering with evidence, but a ruling of nolle prosequi – not to pursue – was entered. Charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of illegal substances near housing projects were dropped to misdemeanor marijuana possession, while the stalking and false reporting of a crime noted above also resulted in a nolle prosequi entry.

A criminal background check shows Gowen has found trouble no matter where he resides, as charges in North Carolina in the 1990s include marijuana possession, speeding to elude arrest, driving while impaired and driving with a revoked license. The alias of John Larry Good appears in Roswell, Ga. on a charge of possession of a controlled substance in 2010. Other drug charges in Georgia show a booking in 2011 for possession of MDMA in Sandy Springs and a 2012 arrest in Atlanta for cocaine and heroin possession.

North Carolina courts show Gowen received probation for drug possession charges in 1988 and probation again in 1996 on a DWI charge. Martin County courts in Florida show Gowen faced a variety of charges in 2004 and 2005, including battery, petit theft, controlled substance trafficking, possession of a controlled substance and driving without a valid license. He was adjudicated guilty in the petit theft charge, but adjudication was withheld for the battery charge and driving without a valid license, while the trafficking charge was dropped/abandoned by the prosecutor.

In the recent petition for probation bond, David Crowe, another attorney representing Gowen, noted his client “poses no significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community” and “poses no significant risk on intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.”

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