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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — An Air Force staff sergeant on trial for having sex with a 14-year-old has asked for and received a Chapter 4 discharge.

James Carlson, assigned to the 725th Air Mobility Squadron in Rota, Spain, was facing a court-martial in Aviano when the agreement was announced.

Chapter 4 discharges are administrative in nature, and military officials don’t comment on them. Carlson had entered a not guilty plea in the court-martial.

One of Carlson’s defense attorneys, Maj. Patrick Dolan, said Monday in a brief telephone interview that he couldn’t comment on the matter either.

But he confirmed that the court-martial was over without the jury ever being seated.

Dolan and fellow defense attorney Maj. Mynda Ohman had successfully challenged an array of potential evidence and testimony against their client, who was 25 years old when the charges were brought forth.

As a result, Carlson was facing only a count of carnal knowledge.

Prosecutors had tried to introduce evidence that would back a case of multiple illicit encounters as well as multiple violations of a no-contact order. But they dropped the other charges during the evidence phase of the court-martial after several successful challenges by the defense.

The court recessed late last week while prosecutors mulled their options of appeal.

Carlson, who had requested a Chapter 4 discharge and been turned down before, was then granted the discharge by Lt. Gen. Glen W. Moorhead, commander of the 16th Air Force and the separation authority.

Testimony last week revealed that Carlson allegedly had a series of encounters with the teenage daughter of a sailor stationed at Rota. The prosecution’s charges stem from an incident in September 2003. After that incident, Carlson was ordered to have no further contact with the girl, who he reportedly thought was 18.

In December, two of Carlson’s supervisors drove to his off-base apartment and — reportedly suspecting the order was being disobeyed — questioned him outside. He was reportedly asked to produce the girl if she was inside and he did so.

But the defense successfully argued that his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination were violated in the process. So jurors wouldn’t hear about it. The decision also wiped out testimony on about 90 violations of the no-contact order that were discovered after Carlson and the girl were found together.

The prosecution also maintained during the trial that it was hampered by a general lack of co-operation by Navy authorities in Rota, where the Article 32 hearing was held in March.

An Air Force paralegal told the court that she was chosen to record witness testimony because the Navy refused to provide a court reporter for the proceedings. The defense challenged that deposition, saying that only a certified court reporter could obtain it. It also challenged the fact that the witness wouldn’t be present to testify at Aviano, denying the jury and their client the chance to see her in court. Prosecutors said the witness’s father, also in the Navy, refused to allow the teenager to travel to Aviano to testify. The deposition wasn’t allowed.

Aviano was hosting the court-martial because it has jurisdiction over a handful of geographically separated Air Force units.

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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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