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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — A technical sergeant a month shy of 20 years in the Air Force was convicted Wednesday of manufacturing child pornography and was sentenced to six years in prison — losing what his attorney said was $1 million in retirement benefits.

David S. Hail, assigned to the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was found guilty in a general court-martial of taking nude pictures of the daughter of another airman. The girl’s father was deployed when the incident took place on March 11, 2002.

Hail was sentenced to six years in jail, reduction in rank to E-1 and a dishonorable discharge, an Aviano spokesman said.

Capt. Shane Heavener, the prosecutor, had told the six-man, two-woman jury earlier Wednesday during sentencing arguments that Hail had violated the trust the girl’s parents had placed in him, as well as dishonored his service with his actions.

“We in the military have to trust each other,” he said. “You need to know on deployment that your family is being taken care of.”

He said the jury, made up equally of officers and enlisted personnel, needed to send a message to Hail — and the entire military — that such actions would not be tolerated.

“You have a duty to protect society from this child pornographer,” he told the jury, recommending a sentence of five years in prison, reduction in rank to E-1 and a dishonorable discharge.

But defense counsel Capt. Chadwick Conn said his client was sorry for his actions, had a series of glowing performance reviews throughout his career and didn’t deserve such a tough sentence.

“Don’t fall for that, that he is this dangerous, lurking monster,” he said. “Not true.”

“He is not a danger to society,” Conn said a few minutes later. “He’s someone who wants to rebuild his life. Give him the tools that make that possible.”

Hail faced a maximum of 12 years in prison, forfeiture of all pay, reduction to E-1 and a less-than-honorable discharge.

Heavener said in his arguments that more than 100 pictures of child pornography were found on Hail’s computer, downloaded from the Internet. He said that Hail — named the girl’s legal guardian in the parents’ will — took pictures of her when she was alone with him at his house. The jury saw some of the pictures that Hail had as evidence.

Conn countered that Hail had taken pictures of the girl, but not abused her. He said the conviction Tuesday branded Hail a sex offender for life and that under federal law, his future neighbors would be made aware of his crimes.

He urged jury members to carefully consider that significant jail time and a dishonorable discharge would impede Hail’s ability to support his four children that live with his ex-wife in New York.

“Retirement is gone. He gets nothing for 19 years and 11 months,” he said.

“With a punitive discharge, he loses a million bucks,” Conn said.

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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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