Military Judge J. Wesley Moore dismissed former Shaw Air Force Base 20th Fighter Wing Vice Commander Col. William Jones from the U.S. Air Force and sentenced him to 12 months incarceration during the final day of the court-martial sentence hearing at Shaw Air Force Base on Friday.
Jones pleaded guilty to wrongfully possessing child pornography between July 2015 and February 2016.
There is a difference in the testimony given by the accused and the evidence presented by the government, said Maj. Sarah Lyons of the trial counsel during closing arguments on Friday afternoon. While speaking, she showed the military judge some of the images found on the laptop seized from Jones' residence in February 2016.
Jones said he stumbled upon child pornography while attempting to look for pornography of young adults and his only crime is that he held onto the illegal images for too long, she said.
The accused would also like for the military judge to believe it is impossible to search the internet for pornography of young adults without finding child pornography but that defies common sense, she said.
Lyons said it is hard to believe that Jones, who has a background in computer science and is intelligent enough to reach the rank of colonel, cannot navigate the internet to find what he is looking for.
And if he stumbled upon images that are clearly illegal, why did he do the same thing over and over again, and why did he organize, rename and hide the images, Lyons asked. A mistake happens one time, not multiple times, she said.
The only explanation is that he found and kept the images intentionally, Lyons said.
The trial counsel requested that Jones be dismissed from the Air Force and sentenced to nine years in prison.
Lyons said the requested sentence and dismissal would send the message that no matter a service member's rank, a crime will be dealt with appropriately.
The accused has a problem, and it is clear that rehabilitation will take a long time, she said.
Jones should be dismissed in order to distinguish him from service members who have served for many years without harming others, she said. Awards cannot make up for preying on children, some of the most vulnerable people in society, she said.
The defense counsel requested that Jones be sentenced to 12 months incarceration and remain in the Air Force.
Defense attorney Ernesto Gapasin said the military judge should take into account that Jones had already accepted responsibility for the crime. This has been a lesson learned for Jones and that is more than half of the battle, he said.
Jones knows that child pornography is an insidious evil in society, and that it destroys the lives of the children and those who view it, Gapasin said.
He said a small number of the images found on his client's devices actually depicted hardcore child pornography. Not in an attempt to justify the crime, what was found is more benign than what is out there and that should be a mitigating factor when setting the sentence, he said.
Gapasin said the purpose behind a sentence is to rehabilitate a person, but he would say his client has been rehabilitated through the court-martial process. He said an extended incarceration period would take Jones away from his family support system and professional connections, which would take away his chance for further rehabilitation.
Jones' more than 30 years of service to the military have to be calculated when determining his sentence, Gapasin said. Even a major general spoke on Jones' behalf, knowing the charges involved, in order to give the whole picture of his dedicated service, he said.
A dismissal would be a disproportionate punishment, he said.
As a result of the sentencing, Jones' status in the Air Force and all benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Air Force will be terminated, including the possibility of becoming a military retiree and receiving retiree payment.
Jones began serving his prison sentence immediately.