Air Force officer sentenced for sex crimes following online sting
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 5, 2018
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – An Air Force weather officer was convicted Tuesday on multiple counts of sex crimes after sharing hundreds of sexually explicit messages, photographs and videos with two undercover agents whom he believed to be 14 years old.
Capt. Sean Miller, assigned to the 7th Weather Squadron in Wiesbaden, was sentenced to 18 months in jail and dismissal from the service.
Military judge Lt. Col. Will Babor found the former youth soccer coach guilty of all charges, despite defense arguments that Air Force Office of Special Investigations’ methods rose to the level of entrapment.
Miller was convicted of five counts of attempting to commit a lewd act upon a person he believed to be a minor via online communications; and two counts of soliciting those same individuals to produce and distribute child pornography.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges at the start of his court-martial Monday and declined to have his case tried by a jury of officers.
The charges against Miller date back to November 2016. While deployed to Hurlburt Field, Fla., for training, he responded to a “casual encounters” ad on Craigslist. The site has since shut down personal ads for romance and sex after Congress passed a law cracking down on sex trafficking of children.
Posted by “Tiffany,” the ad stated that she was a military dependent looking for fun with people who had base access.
In reality, Tiffany was an OSI agent working at Hurlburt as part of an Internet Crimes Against Children sting.
The operation was focused on the Defense Department community in north Florida, agents testified in court.
Miller’s initial communication with Tiffany was benign. “Hey, I’m sorry you’re lonely,” he wrote. “I’d like to help you out.” When the agent wrote his persona was 14, Miller said, “Hey, we can never meet. I’m a little older than you,” and told her he was 28.
Tiffany wrote she was OK with the age difference; that she didn’t want a friend, was “tired of boys” and was “looking for someone mature.”
Miller remained cautious, according to court testimony. He said that he didn’t want to get in trouble. After several more exchanges the conversation turned sexual.
But then the emails from Miller stopped for several days. The OSI agent testified that he tried to re-engage Miller and found out he had left Florida and was stationed in Germany. He told Miller about Tiffany’s friend, “Kerri” — a 14-year-old girl who lived on Ramstein with her mom — and gave Miller her email address.
Kerri was really another OSI agent working at Ramstein. Miller contacted her immediately, telling her at one point he was interested in “massages, kisses and sex.”
For more than three months, Miller communicated with the undercover agents by email and Kik, a mobile instant messaging app. He first sent them just a photo of his face and random selfies that eventually escalated to sexual photos exposing himself.
His language was often X-rated. A video he sent to one of the agents that appears to show him masturbating was played in court. The agent posing as Kerri sent Miller enhanced photos of herself that made her appear younger and smaller. He prodded the agents to provide him with sexual photos and videos, which they never did.
The agents said in court they made it clear their personas were underage; they said they were 14 and throughout their chats with Miller, wrote about typical teenage concerns and topics, such as school, soccer games, boys and their parents.
Miller appeared to be worried about getting caught, frequently telling Kerri to delete his messages and keep their correspondence secret. He never arranged a meetup.
Miller was arrested in February 2017 while deployed to Qatar.
The defense argued that Miller, struggling with depression and in a bad marriage at the time, was starved for affection. He was obsessed with sex but not with minors, his attorneys said. Through Tinder, he met other adult women with whom he carried on similar online sexual fantasies.
Miller had no prior criminal history and a forensic search of some 17,000 emails and texts found no other communications or interest in sex with minors, according to court testimony. Former youth soccer players whom Miller coached reported no inappropriate behavior when interviewed during the investigation.
“He wasn’t targeting minors for sex,” said Jonathan Crisp, one of Miller’s civilian defense attorneys and a former Army lawyer. “He was targeting women and OSI inserted a minor” in an adult sex site, Crisp said. “Had OSI not created this scenario, we would not have a crime.”
But government prosecutors said that Miller, not OSI, was the first to mention sex in the chats.
“He doesn’t put on the brakes when he finds out they’re 14,” prosecutor Maj. Abigail Hunter said. “He doesn’t care if it’s an adult or a 14-year-old because of his intense drive to engage in sexual activity.”
At an emotional sentencing hearing late Tuesday, Miller’s family members asked the judge to spare him jail time and let him return home, where his mother was undergoing cancer treatment.
Miller was always a good kid and followed the rules, said his father, a retired Air Force colonel. “This is hard, but I believe in him,” Dennis Miller said. “I think something happened … he was in this fantasy.”