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RAF MILDENHALL, England — A 352nd Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster has been sentenced to six months confinement after pleading guilty to a charge of desertion and being found guilty of negligent dereliction of duty.

Staff Sgt. Toni Zito also was reduced to the rank of airman basic and given a dishonorable discharge at a two-day court-martial last week at the base.

She had entered a innocent plea to the dereliction of duty charge, stemming from the discovery of unlawful firearms at her house in Downham Market.

Other charges related to the unlawful possession of firearms in Great Britain were dropped in exchange for her guilty plea, said U.S. Air Force Capt. Anniece Barber, a prosecutor in the case.

The charges resulted from a January 2003 shoplifting charge against her husband, Roberto Zito, who worked as a loss prevention officer for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service in the United Kingdom.

While British authorities were searching the Zito’s off-base house for other stolen goods, they found two rifles, one pump-action shotgun and four handguns.

“All along, [Toni Zito] has claimed she didn’t know they were there,” said Barber, who spoke by telephone Monday morning from her office at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The airman told investigators that she had told her husband, who also faces charges from British authorities for gun possession, not to bring the guns to England. She said she did not know he had disobeyed her wishes.

Prior to her scheduled court-martial last October, Toni Zito fled England and went to Sicily, where she was found by an Office of Special Investigations officer from Naples, Italy, on Dec. 20, Barber said.

Roberto Zito remains in Italy, where he lives with his father. British authorities are seeking his extradition so he can face a trial on the illegal gun possession charges.

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