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RAF LAKENHEATH, England — An officer convicted this summer of molesting a 10-year-old could still be kicked out of the military after avoiding a dismissal during sentencing.

Maj. Brandon Smith, 36, pleaded guilty to "assault consummated by battery with a minor" for licking the child’s buttocks while she slept and a slew of other charges including assault, drunk and disorderly conduct and conduct that discredits the armed forces. The charges stem from a night of partying in July 2007 in which Smith also attacked two junior enlisted airmen.

Col. Gordon Hammock, a military judge, fined Smith $4,000 and ordered him to 45 days’ confinement at a June court-martial. He got out of jail eight days early for good behavior and has since gone back to work at the 48th Medical Group. Smith, who had never provided patient care, was reassigned to a different squadron before the trial and returned to that position after he was released.

While he avoided a dismissal — the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge for the enlisted ranks — during trial, commanders at the 48th Fighter Wing have since decided to pursue an administrative discharge, according to base officials.

It’s standard procedure, said Col. Zeb Pischnotte, 3rd Air Force staff judge advocate, regarding the general process for airmen and officers who are convicted but not dismissed or discharged punitively.

Only the rare exceptions remain on active-duty afterward, he said.

Once notified by Lakenheath officials of the discharge proceeding, Smith has 10 days to submit evidence in response, apply for voluntary retirement if eligible, tender a resignation or request a delay to respond, according to Air Force guidelines.

If Lakenheath commanders determine discharge procedures should continue after that, Smith would be eligible to appear before a board of inquiry to present his case for retention.

But the ultimate decision is made by the Secretary of the Air Force, according to an e-mail from Lt. Col. John Hartsell, staff judge advocate for the 48th Fighter Wing.

It was unclear Tuesday where Smith stood in the discharge process.

Since how an officer separates from the Air Force affects various benefits and entitlements, the difference between a punitive dismissal, administrative discharge and the other options for convicted Air Force officers is significant, Pischnotte said.

What’s more, he said, the stigma of an administrative discharge is not as socially unacceptable as a punitive dismissal, Pischnotte said.

The crime Smith was convicted of does not require him to register as a sex offender, Hartsell wrote.


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