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OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — A senior airman who pleaded guilty to downloading child pornography was sentenced Tuesday to nine months in jail, and he got a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force.

The court-martial of Senior Airman Chad A. Hackfort, 25, of Osan’s 51st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, lasted about three hours before Air Force Col. Steven A. Hatfield, chief military judge of the Pacific Circuit from Yokota Air Base, Japan.

Under a pretrial agreement, Hackfort, who’d opted to have his case tried by a military judge alone, will serve just seven months of the sentence.

The senior airman pleaded guilty to knowingly and wrongfully possessing computer images of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, which, under Article 134 of U.S. military law, is action “prejudicial to good order and discipline or of a nature to bring discredit upon the Armed Forces.”

The road to Hackfort’s court-martial began in July 2003 when he arrived for duty at Osan and checked a customs form indicating that he possessed pornography.

When an Osan airman on customs duty saw the entry, he alerted base security forces, who questioned Hackfort. In Hackfort’s luggage were a laptop and 46 CDs containing pornographic images.

The airman on duty checked a CD and saw what he suspected was child pornography. Had the pornography been of adults, authorities would have confiscated and destroyed the pornography, but no disciplinary action would have followed, officials said.

The matter was referred to the Office of Special Investigations, which established that 12 images were of minors, prosecutors said.

Hackfort pleaded guilty and later was allowed to make an unsworn statement before the judge decided the sentence.

Portraying himself as the son and grandson of military veterans, one dedicated to serving the Air Force, Hackfort said he deserved punishment but asked that it not be harsh.

While acknowledging he had “viewed and collected a good deal of pornography,” Hackfort told the judge, “I am saying I am not a pedophile. I should never have done it in the first place. I have sincere regret about my wrongdoing.”

But, Hackfort said, “I feel I am a valuable asset to the force and that I should not be discharged. Please do not lock me in a cage for a long period of time.”

Hackfort’s statement preceded closing arguments, beginning with prosecutor Capt. HoeChin Kim, assistant staff judge advocate with Osan’s base legal office. Kim asked the judge to reduce Hackfort to the lowest pay grade, jail him for nine months and oust him from the Air Force with a bad-conduct discharge.

Hackfort was right in saying his was not a case of severe pedophilia, Kim said. But, she said, Hackfort’s actions were neither youthful indiscretions nor accidental downloads of Internet pornography.

“This is a case of a now 25-year-old who repeatedly downloaded” and viewed images of people under 18, she said.

“It’s true that the majority of his collection contained adult pornography,” Kim said. But even a single child porn image was “egregious,” she said.

Noting Hackfort’s desire to remain in the Air Force, Kim said discharging him would “drive home the point” that child porn was wrong.

“He needs substantial jail time to reflect on why what he did was wrong. The accused made criminal choices. He kept those images anyway,” Kim said. “No airman should have to look up to him as an example of what a senior airman should be.”

Hackfort’s defense lawyer was Capt. Robert Ramirez, an assistant staff judge advocate assigned to the Defense Trial Counsel office at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. Ramirez told the judge Hackfort’s was not a case of typical child pornography.

Of the 46 CDs Hackfort turned over on arrival, the defense attorney said, “there were only 12 pictures that contained child pornography. Sure he has to be punished. He violated federal law.” But the prosecution’s punishment requests were too strong, Ramirez said.

He also recounted testimony that Hackfort, who entered the Air Force in March 1999, often had received high praise for his job competence and good behavior and even was praised once for his ability to represent the Air Force well.

After a 38-minute recess, Hatfield pronounced sentence, which Hackfort heard with no visible emotion. Hackfort was to be transported Tuesday to the Army’s confinement facility at nearby Camp Humphreys, officials said.


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