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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Three airmen from 31st Fighter Wing have been court-martialed this month for cocaine use, and 10 more may face trial in the coming months.

The cases result from a four-month investigation conducted by members of the Office of Special Investigations detachment in Aviano and the 31st Security Forces Squadron that ended in an on-base raid in December. At the time, base officials said a dozen airmen were being detained in connection with illegal drug use.

Capt. Jennifer Whitko, chief of military justice for the wing, said Friday that two courts-martial are scheduled for next week, and eight more are possible.

“We’re sifting through the evidence and finding out what charges are going to come out of them,” she said.

The latest court-martial was held Friday.

Airman Nathan Blount, assigned to the 31st Logistics Readiness Squadron, pleaded guilty to the use of cocaine and making a false official statement. He was sentenced to seven months’ confinement, reduction in rank to E-1 and a bad-conduct discharge.

Two other cases were heard earlier this month:

• Senior Airman Darrin Gilmore of the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron pleaded guilty to cocaine use on Aug. 2, but was found not guilty on conspiracy charges. He was sentenced to three months of jail time, reduction in rank to E-1 and forfeiture of two-thirds pay for six months.

• Airman 1st Class Justin Etherton of the 31st Logistics Readiness Squadron pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess cocaine and one count of cocaine use in a court-martial on Monday. He was sentenced to four months in jail, four months forfeiture of two-thirds pay and a reduction in rank to E-1.

Whitko said that while many of the charges are similar and they all result from the same case, each of those accused would be tried separately

The military could try more than one at a time, but “that’s something the military traditionally doesn’t do,” she said.

Logistics and the desire for each of those accused to have adequate legal representation are the main reasons for separate trials, she said.

The high number of courts-martial that could result from the case is unusual for Aviano, where the courtroom is often empty. But a similar bust at Camp Darby that occurred a week after the Aviano bust may skew the numbers even further.

One court-martial in that case was held Aug. 13 in Aviano. Airman 1st Class Sy Holsinger of the 712th Munitions Squadron pleaded guilty to one count of cocaine use and one count of fraudulent enlistment.

He was sentenced to five months in jail, five months forfeiture of two-thirds pay, reduction in rank to E-1 and a bad-conduct discharge.

Airmen at Camp Darby now fall under the jurisdiction of the 30th Combat Support Wing in Sembach, Germany. So the trials may be held in Germany or Aviano.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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