RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — A military judge sentenced an airman to 18 months in jail following the airman’s guilty plea to one count of indecent acts with a child whom he was baby-sitting.

Senior Airman Timothy Miller, 23, was also reduced in rank to E-1 and given a bad-conduct discharge for the incident, which occurred three years ago while he was assigned to Yokota Air Base, Japan.

During his court-martial, Miller tearfully admitted to purposely touching the toddler’s private parts while helping her use the bathroom, and to also giving her an open mouth kiss "to show her what a French kiss was," he told Lt. Col. Jennifer Cline, an Air Force judge.

"If you knew these acts were wrong, then why did you do it?" Cline asked Miller.

"Because I was curious, your honor," Miller answered.

The airman could have faced a maximum 14-year sentence, although military prosecutors had asked for five years.

The child’s father — who is not being identified by Stars and Stripes to protect the victim’s identity — testified at Miller’s trial.

He testified that Miller worked with his wife at an air mobility squadron at Yokota. When Miller offered several times to baby-sit the couple’s 2-year-old child, "a red flag went up." But, "I figured he was trying to be a good friend," he said.

The father testified that he worries how the incident will affect his daughter as she grows older.

"We feel real guilty for it," he testified. "As parents you’re supposed to provide that protection for your child. We feel we failed because we were careless."

The case took nearly three years to be prosecuted in part due to delayed reporting. Miller baby-sat the toddler in February or March 2006 while the child’s parents dined at Yokota’s enlisted club.

When the parents returned, "my daughter came running out ... ran over to Miller and said ‘Tim tickled my pee-pee,’" the victim’s father testified.

Miller initially denied any wrongdoing.

Wanting to believe nothing happened, the father said he didn’t report the incident right away. But over the course of the next year, the daughter occasionally would mention something sexual in nature from that evening. The father contacted law enforcement in August 2007, and two months later, Miller confessed to investigators.

Miller’s confinement was to start immediately. It’s likely that he’ll have to register as a sex offender in the state where he lives upon his release, officials said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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