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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism in combat action in Afghanistan ended his 19-year career here Friday after pleading guilty to three counts of child pornography and soliciting sex from a 13-year-old girl.

Tech. Sgt. Theodore D. Mirich, 39, a flight engineer with the 33rd Rescue Squadron, was sentenced to 60 months confinement, a bad-conduct discharge and reduction in rank to E-1 at the end of a daylong general court-martial.

The judge, Col. Steven Hatfield, had returned from his deliberation with a sentence of eight years in prison and a dishonorable discharge, but was limited by the terms of a plea agreement.

During the trial, the judge privately reviewed 40 photographs obtained from Mirich’s computer that depicted children in various sexual positions with adults. He also considered a lengthy stipulation of facts in which Mirich admitted to downloading and sharing child pornography between Aug. 1, 2003, and Dec. 29, 2005.

Mirich also admitted that he sent obscene photos of himself to the daughter of a Marine gunnery sergeant living on Kadena, and solicited her to have sex with him.

“I had felt Okinawa was safe,” the gunnery sergeant testified, adding that Mirich’s predatory action toward his daughter had turned a once bright, cheerful eighth-grader into a moody, disrespectful teen. After Air Force investigators informed him of their investigation, he said he looked at his daughter’s home page on MySpace and “was shocked” at what he saw.

“She’s not an innocent kid anymore,” he said, rubbing a tear from his right eye. “This has really hurt our family a lot.”

Capt. J. Brian Jones, the lead prosecutor, said Mirich’s actions had damaged the feeling of safety of servicemembers and their families on Okinawa.

“We believe that it’s only fat, greasy old men who hide in their homes and cannot interact with normal society who do these things,” Jones said, looking at Mirich, who sat between his military and civilian attorneys, the left breast of his blue blazer filled with seven rows of service ribbons. “But we’re here today because those feelings are lies,” he said. “Sexual predation is among us and we can’t stop it.”

He said Mirich was not satisfied with just looking at child pornography.

“We are here because he wanted be one of the people in the pictures,” he said.

Jones said Mirich admitted that he not only downloaded child porn, but also shared information with pedophiles on how to take advantage of children. He said Mirich also had established contact with a 13-year-old Japanese girl.

Annette Eddie-Callagain, Mirich’s civilian defense attorney, argued that Mirich’s superiors had used the words “hero,” “patriot” and “exceptional” to describe his service and asked that he be able to retire from the Air Force after serving two years in prison.

“No man is perfect,” she said. “We’ve all made mistakes; we’ve all fallen short of the mark at some point in our lives.”

Mirich gave a lengthy statement before he was sentenced, offering an apology for what he did and a plea for mercy. “I am deeply sorry,” he said, pausing to compose himself. “I’ve let everyone down.”

Air Force officials Friday said the Mirich case was not an isolated incident. A court-martial is scheduled next Wednesday for another airman charged with possessing, receiving and displaying child porn.

“Besides the case scheduled for next week, there are allegations that others may be involved,” a spokesman for the base public affairs office said.


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