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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — A 23-year-old senior airman was sentenced Tuesday to 15 months in jail and faces possible registry as a sex offender after pleading guilty to committing “indecent acts of liberty with a child.”

During his general court-martial, James N.P. Bland apologized to the Air Force, to his family and to the victim, telling Col. Steven A. Hatfield, chief military judge for the Pacific Circuit, that his family would suffer the most from his crime.

“I realize that because of my actions, I have lost my military career and I almost lost my family,” Bland said of his wife and the couple’s two young children.

Bland, a member of 35th Security Forces Squadron, also received a bad-conduct discharge and reduction in rank to E-1.

Bland admitted to sexually fondling a 14-year-old American girl on three separate occasions, off-base, between March 15 and May 31, 2006. The victim is the daughter of a U.S. Air Force officer assigned to Misawa.

Bland also pleaded guilty to using indecent language with the same victim.

In court Tuesday, Capt. Kathryn Miller, 35th Fighter Wing assistant staff judge advocate, said that Bland first approached the victim after she got off the school bus near Circle K. He knew the girl’s age, Miller said, because the victim told him “when she got off that school bus.”

At the time, Bland was in uniform and left his then-6-month-old baby in the car while “he took her by the hand and took her to the side of Circle K” to fondle her, Miller said of the victim. Bland waited for the girl on two other occasions, again touching her inappropriately at the same location, according to Miller and court testimony.

“If it’s OK to have a 22-year-old scoping out school buses, then nothing needs to be deterred,” Miller told the judge, in asking the judge for a sentence of three years’ confinement. She also argued that Bland was an unlikely candidate for rehabilitation, since his past discipline record included reprimands for hitting on a Pizza Hut delivery driver “while she thought she was being pulled over for a police stop,” and hitting on two Japanese high school students on their way home from school.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Misawa began investigating Bland in June, after the father of the victim’s friend learned of the conduct and reported it to security forces.

“The prosecution, despite the fact he’s taken responsibility for his actions, they still continue to paint him as a monster,” said Capt. Jonathan Wasden, Misawa area defense counsel, explaining that Bland gave a full confession to OSI in June. “If he was a monster, he wouldn’t be walking around free on this installation for a year. He would have been in pretrial confinement.”

During that period, Bland lost his security forces beret and his unit assigned him to menial tasks such as cutting grass, cleaning bathrooms, picking up cigarette butts — “and anything else my unit could find to keep me busy,” he said. He also was not allowed to leave the Misawa area.

Bland was to be led away from the courtroom Tuesday in handcuffs. It has yet to be determined where he would serve his sentence. The maximum possible jail time for the charges against Bland was nine years’ confinement; a pretrial agreement limited the maximum the judge could impose in this case to 20 months.

Whether he’ll have to register as a sex offender depends on Bland’s state of residence, Miller said.

“We are required to provide sex offender notification; however, whether he is registered as a sex offender is dependent upon the law of the state in which he will be residing after confinement,” Miller said in written statement.

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