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RAF MILDENHALL — An RAF Alconbury airman’s conviction for indecent acts with a child was dismissed Friday by Lt. Gen. Robert D. Bishop, the convening authority in the case.

During a February court-martial, Airman 1st Class Joseph A. Spaulding was acquitted of rape, child rape and sodomy but convicted of indecent acts for climbing naked into the bed of an 8-year-old girl in 2004. He was also convicted of simple assault for incidents that took place in 2002 and 2005.

In dismissing the indecent act conviction, Bishop — the 3rd Air Force commander — also reduced the airman’s sentence to four months confinement and a reduction in rank to E-3.

Spaulding, assigned to the 423rd Civil Engineering Squadron, had been sentenced to six months in jail and reduced to E-1.

The airman will not have to register as a sex offender in the United States, which would have been required following the indecent acts conviction.

It’s the second time in 14 months that Bishop has thrown out an indecent acts conviction against an airman. The last one — recorded in a May 2006 memo — was for Peter V. Tobolsky, a former RAF Mildenhall airman found guilty of indecent acts with a female airman while deployed to Qatar in 2005.

The reason behind Bishop’s ruling was unknown to Spaulding’s defense attorney, Greg McCormack.

“It was a very pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting it. The general did the right thing in this case,” McCormack said Monday via telephone from his office in Virginia.

McCormack called Bishop’s decision a rarity.

“First time I’ve seen it happen in a major case,” said McCormack, a former Army lawyer who has 28 years of military court experience.

Local public affairs officials would not provide any justification for Bishop’s ruling.

“It is inappropriate to discuss the specifics of the convening authority’s decision-making process. The convening authority exercised his authority under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in this case to disapprove a finding and to reduce the amount of the adjudged sentence,” 3rd Air Force spokesman Senior Master Sgt. Hollis Dawson Jr. wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.

Spaulding has already served his jail term on the charges, the Air Force said.

The slow process of the court was responsible for the delay in Bishop’s ruling, according to Lt. Col. Troy Holroyd, 3rd Air Force Chief of Military Justice. Before the defense counsel has the opportunity to request clemency, the court reporter has to transcribe the court record, which is then authenticated by the judge, Holroyd said.

“That whole process takes time and every case is different,” Holroyd said in a telephone interview Tuesday, adding that jail time, such as Spaulding’s, immediately follows sentencing.


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