2 plead guilty in child sex abuse crimes

Published 2:10 am Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Defendants in unrelated sex offenses against minors recently pleaded guilty, according to a press release from the Covington County District Attorney’s office.

Benjamin Ellis White, 32, of Opp, pleaded guilty to Rape I, a Class A felony, before Circuit Judge Lex Short. Judge Short sentenced White to 25 years. Chief Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter prosecuted the case for the State. White was defended by Diana Mock.

White was charged after Covington County E-911 received a dispatch call from a minor child reporting her own recent rape. Opp Police Department responded and Sgt. Heather Koerner led the investigation of the incident. Through that investigation, White eventually confessed to officers that he had been having sexual intercourse with a young child multiple times over a number of years.

In the second case, George N. Scroggins, 87, of Florala, pleaded guilty before Judge Short to Sexual Abuse of a Child Under 12, which is a Class B felony. Scroggins’ plea followed his indictment by a Covington County grand jury in 2016. The case was set for trial in January and was continued at that time. Scroggins subsequently decided to enter a plea of guilty and was sentenced to 12 years. Bill Alverson represented Scroggins and the case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Nikki Stephens.

In the Scroggins case, the Florala Police Department received a complaint of an inappropriate incident with Scroggins and a minor child, and that investigation led to further charges for incidents that happened over 20 years ago with other children. Police Chief Sonny Bedsole led the Florala investigation in conjunction with the Department of Human Resources.

District Attorney Walt Merrell noted that child sex crimes are among the hardest to deal with for multiple reasons.

“They are difficult to prove and successfully prosecute, but they also come with the most innocent of victims, many of whom have had their innocence forever stripped from them,” he said. “The physical damage may heal, but the emotional scars may last forever.”

The Covington County Child Advocacy Center conducted forensic interviews of the children, and in one case the child victim received counseling through the CAC.

Merrell said the men will be registered sex offenders for the remainder of their lives.

“Their communities will be aware of their misdeeds,” he said. “White will remain in prison for many years to come, and it is likely that Scroggins will die in prison.”

Merrell complimented Stephens, Jeter, the Department of Human Resources staff, the CAC staff, and all the law enforcement officers involved in the two cases.