Former Air Force Academy ethics instructor pleads guilty to exploiting child for sex
October 31, 2019
WASHINGTON — An Air Force officer who taught ethics at the service’s academy in Colorado will register as a sex offender and spend 10 years under intensive supervised probation after pleading guilty this week to charges that he attempted to lure a 14-year-old online for sex.
Air Force Capt. Paul Sikkema, 29, also faces up to three months in prison at a sentencing hearing expected Dec. 13 after pleading guilty Tuesday to a single count of felony sexual exploitation of a child, Colorado’s 18th Judicial District announced. Sikkema was charged in April while still teaching at the Air Force Academy, from which he graduated in 2012, after investigators said he spent weeks talking with an undercover officer and later attempted to persuade that person who he believed to be a young girl to meet.
Sikkema inquired about the teenager’s sexual history and asked whether she was “into older guys.” But he also acknowledged he should not be texting with her, telling her doing so could get him “in a lot of trouble.” Nonetheless, Sikkema told the undercover officer that he really wanted to meet her, according to arrest documents.
“This conduct is shameful for the perpetrator and embarrassing for our phenomenal Air Force Academy,” said 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler. “Predators are always looking for young, vulnerable victims. Our ability to identify and quickly stop them is directly related to the funding we have for our Internet Crimes Against Children team. We are proud to work with them and prosecute those who target our children.”
An Air Force spokesperson said Sikkema remained on active duty but he had not been teaching at the Air Force Academy since his arrest. Convictions for crimes as serious as Sikkema’s typically trigger discharge actions, the spokesperson said, declining further comment.
Sikkema returned to the Air Force Academy in 2017 to teach in the philosophy department, according to his Air Force biography. He was teaching an ethics course in that department at the time of his arrest.
The captain also has a master’s degree in philosophy, which he earned from Georgia State University in 2014, writing his thesis on the ethics of targeted killing, according to the biography.
Before returning to teach at his alma mater, Sikkema had attended intelligence officer training and worked as an instructor assigned to the 337th Air Control Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.