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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — It was no secret that Air Force Staff Sgt. Sergio Richo and another airman’s wife had become extremely close when her husband was deployed two years ago.

But when she told Richo she would never divorce her husband unless “he hurt my children,” Air Force prosecutors charge that Richo followed through with a devious plan to get the airman in trouble and break up the marriage.

Richo, of the 435th Communications Squadron at Ramstein, is accused of setting up his former friend by planting photos and documents on his computer to make it look like the airman downloaded child pornography and molested his own stepdaughter.

Richo has pleaded innocent to those charges and his defense lawyers at a court-martial on Wednesday said there isn’t enough evidence to prove the allegations are true. They argued that he was deployed to Africa around the time the child pornography was uploaded to the other airman’s computer.

After two days of testimony, an Air Force judge is expected to deliver a verdict in the case Thursday morning. Richo faces 23 years in prison if Judge (Col.) Gordon Hammock finds him guilty of all charges, including storing child pornography on a government computer and photographing the couple’s 2-year-old daughter naked.

Prosecutors allege that Richo wanted the other staff sergeant’s wife so badly that he went as far as taking the photo of her daughter and uploading it to her home computer to frame her husband.

Earlier in the trial, he pleaded guilty to disobeying a lawful order by his command to not contact the other airman or his wife.

On Wednesday, the woman testified her husband introduced Richo to her and that they later developed a relationship when her husband was deployed in 2003. At the time, she said Richo had stayed at her house and had access to her house keys.

She said he kept urging her to leave her husband, but she told him that she would never do that unless he did something bad to her children. She testified that after she found a suspicious tool bar on her browser that linked to various pornographic Web sites on her computer last year, Richo led her to a hidden file on her computer that had the image of her daughter and other child pornography.

She said she never suspected her husband would download the images and later told a friend, who called police.

Defense lawyers Capt. Eric Merriam and Capt. Michael Carson disputed her testimony, arguing that she is protecting her husband and that the prosecution’s case is based only on theory.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Maj. Robert Latrell said Richo took the photo of the girl and uploaded it and other images with his handheld computer. Investigators found some of the documents loaded onto the other airman’s computer on Richo’s home computer.

“He set up an innocent man to make it look like he touched his own daughter,” Latrell said.

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