Support our mission
 

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — When in uniform, Tech. Sgt. Jerry Orona was an exemplary noncommissioned officer.

His supervisors said so. And he shone in performance reports with adjectives such as “unmatched” and “extraordinary.”

From crew chief of the year to “Stripes for Exceptional Performers” promotee, Orona racked up numerous awards over his 18-year Air Force career. Outside of work he was a youth soccer coach, Special Olympics volunteer and Air Force rugby team member.

Orona said he was committed to his job and the Air Force despite some personal mistakes. But the accolades, praise, remorse, community service — none was enough to save his career or spare him from prison.

On Wednesday, a day after he was convicted of child pornography possession in a general court-martial here, a military jury sentenced him to two years in jail and gave him a dishonorable discharge, the more severe punitive separation. Orona, who was reduced in rank to E-1, also must forfeit all pay and allowances.

Investigators found 40 pornographic images of children downloaded onto his computer and more than 10,000 digital photographs of children in various stages of undress, according to testimony.

The jury of nine deliberated for more than two hours Wednesday after an emotional sentencing hearing. Orona’s wife, Mika, a Japanese citizen, testified she stood by her husband of 16 years despite his legal troubles because he is kind and a good father to their three children. The stress since the Air Force launched its investigation in March 2004 caused him to lose some hair, she said. But “he never show me sad face,” Mika said.

At the close of questioning from the defense, she stood and sobbed, “Please, we need him. Don’t take him from us.”

Government prosecutors asked Mika about her husband’s alleged extramarital affairs, including one with a senior airman from his unit that resulted in an Article 15. She was aware only of that one, she said.

Orona also broke down during questioning by his civilian attorney, Phillip Cave, as both stood in front of the jury. He told of the troubles he and his family faced since March 2004: of having to renew his and his family’s ID cards monthly and visit the base schools just as often to let officials know his children still would be enrolled, since he was on a month-to-month extension.

Were he to be discharged, he said, he’d also be in debt to the Air Force $30,000 because he’d taken the service’s career status bonus known as REDUX. Those who don’t make 20 years must repay it.

He asked the jury for the opportunity to salvage his career. He said he deployed numerous times, leaving his family and putting “my life on the line with no regrets.”

Prosecutors argued that leniency wasn’t appropriate.

“Remember the little girl with the blond hair and the glasses?” said Capt. M. Spencer Kerr, referring to some of the pornographic images found on Orona’s laptop and shown to the jury earlier in the week. She and the girls in other digital photographs, ages 6 to 11, were the true victims, he said.

“Unfortunately, for the accused, that innocence had a price tag on it.”

Orona’s sentence was to start Wednesday.

Migrated
twitter Email

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up