Maggie Champion penned a poem to her 15-year-old son in the late 1990s after a man was convicted of sexually assaulting the child in Alabama.
Entitled “My Little Boy,” the poem ends with these words:
“I wish I could have spared you the grief and the shame;
But what I really wanted you to know is you were never to blame;
You were a victim of this monstrous man;
Who preyed upon your youth with only his pleasure the plan.”
More than two decades later, the abuser was back in the news last week in Jacksonville. Samuel Arthur Thompson, 53, of St. Augustine, was convicted of hacking into the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Jumbotron, failing to register as a sex offender and possessing child pornography.
The Jaguars hired him in 2013 to consult on the design and installation of the team’s new Jumbotron video screens but fired him after learning he was a sex offender.
Champion said she kept her eye on Thompson from Alabama after her son was abused. Her son Brandon, now 41, testified in Thompson’s trial this month, leading a federal jury to convict him Friday. Thompson faces up to 35 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on March 25, prosecutors said.
Now, at last, it is all over, Champion said. She hopes Thompson will never be free again.
“He knew what he was doing,” Champion said this week as she made yeast rolls for a much happier Thanksgiving with her son and family.
“I don’t care how we got here. I care that we have shut down this man,” she said. “Was it worth it? Yes, because I want him put away long enough that when he comes out, if he ever gets out, that he is so old than any of these boys he messes with, he won’t even have the strength to put his hand in their pants. It’s been worth every bit of the wait.”
As for the Jaguars, team spokesman John Dever issued a brief statement saying the team thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office “for its decisive action in bringing this case to a close. We are proud of our current and former employees who provided evidence and testimony to assist in the conviction.”
Champion said her son met Thompson at their church, where Thompson was part of the Royal Rangers. According to its national website, that is an “activity-based, small-group church ministry for boys and young men.” Thompson was part of its camp program and worked at the Sonlight Broadcasting Network, so he also handled the church’s audio system, Champion said.
Thompson befriended Brandon and another young man at the time, she said.
“Brandon has always loved electronics, so he was fascinated that Sam let him go back to the sound board, operate things, and he started taking him on trips with Sonlight Broadcast,” she said. “Where the terror began is he always came at these boys in the middle of the night when they were asleep, even if it as at my house, and I certainly let him sleep at my house many times.”
Champion said she was comfortable with Thompson because he had a son himself. But then she read her son’s court testimony from 1998, finding that Thompson would sleep in her son’s room on some of those overnight visits with her and her family.
Finally, in March 1997, she said, she learned that her son had been sexually assaulted, and Thompson was sentenced to 21 months in jail. But the full story didn’t come out until Thompson’s trial this month, she said.
“It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I actually heard my 41-year-old son as he was preparing to testify, and I heard things come out of his mouth that he has taken all these years to process,” she said. “It’s still affects his life. The prosecuting attorney said he started to tear up as he was talking to her.”
Prosecutors said Thompson installed remote access software in the the team’s computer server room before leaving the team. He then remotely accessed the Jumbotron during three games in the 2018 season and disrupted the images, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The Jaguars determined that the outages were caused by someone sending commands via the spare server. They tracked down its internet address during another hacking attempt during the next game. The FBI traced it to Thompson’s home and executed a search warrant in July 2019, when they seized a number of his computers and a gun, prosecutors said.
The investigation showed that the computers had been used to remotely access the Jaguars spare server. The FBI also found thousands of images and hundreds of videos depicting the sexual abuse and torture of young children, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Log files from Thompson’s iPhone, iPad, and two laptops showed that all those devices had been used to remotely access the spare server.
Thompson traveled to the Bahamas on a work trip in July 2019, then registered as a sex offender when he returned July 15, prosecutors said. But he failed to report the travel as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. That same day, Thompson also received child sexual abuse material on his computer.
Twelve days later, Thompson fled to the Philippines, again failing to report his travel. His passport was revoked, and he was deported from the Philippines on Jan. 31, 2020, then arrested by the FBI and held pending trial, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Champion said she had long tracked Thompson via his social media as he used various names.
As for her son, Champion said he told her he testified openly about the abuse at this month’s trial “to stop it from happening to any other little boy.”
She said he still has post-traumatic stress disorder, decades after what happened, but has built a career in information technolgy and medical billing, and running a medical clinic for his mother.