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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The long arm of the law reached halfway around the world Monday to pluck a once-promising petty officer from the Navy for viewing and possessing child pornography.

Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Schlink, an electronics technician on the destroyer USS O’Brien, was sentenced Monday to three months in jail and a bad-conduct discharge after pleading guilty to receiving and possessing some 300 pornographic images of girls under 18. The maximum imprisonment military judge Cmdr. John Maksym could have imposed is one year.

Prosecutors had argued for a six-month sentence, saying that to be an exemplary sailor means more than being a good worker.

“We have to do the right thing,” said Lt. Stella Lane.

The defense had asked for three months’ confinement and no discharge.

Lt. Mary Thompson told the judge that most of the photos involved teenage girls under 18 in explicit poses, not prepubescent girls. “This is not someone who’s obsessed with children,” Thompson said. “Simply looking at photographs is all [he’s] done.”

Schlink, 32, described at sentencing by three senior and master chiefs he’d worked for as “100 percent dependable” and “outstanding,” apologized to crewmates and his family. He said he most regretted the damage his actions had contributed to the lives of girls sexually exploited on pornographic Web sites.

He also regretted the damage to himself, he said. “Until Jan. 21 of this year, I was widely respected on the ship,” he said.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents seized Schlink’s computer several months ago after receiving a list of suspected offenders from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in the Washington, D.C., area, prosecutors said.

The federal agency began an ongoing law-enforcement initiative in July 2003 called “Operation Predator” to target child-sex offenders, including human traffickers, pornographers and “Internet predators,” among others, according to the ICE Web site.

Numerous arrests resulted from one particular investigation into global Internet child pornography. That investigation targeted a company in Belarus called Regpay, which the government says provided credit card billing services for more than 50 child-pornography sites.

In a February news release, ICE said its agents worldwide were focusing on people who’d purchased child pornography memberships from Regpay-affiliated Web sites, and that some 270,000 credit card transactions had been seized and thousands of suspects were being investigated.

Neither Yokosuka prosecutors nor Yokosuka’s NCIS assistant special agent in charge could confirm Monday that Schlink’s prosecution was among those resulting from the Regpay investigation. However, ICE did provide his name to NCIS, prosecutors said, based on a record of his pornography purchasing.

Schlink, a married father of two, told investigators he thought he had developed a problem with pornography in general, viewing it frequently during the week until his wife returned home from work, and that it had created tension in his marriage.

On Monday, the judge offered that he often went home after work and logged on to the “BBC, CNN,” or kept up with sports on his computer. What did Schlink do on his computer? the judge asked.

“Surf for porn, sir,” Schlink said.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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