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HEIDELBERG, Germany — A U.S. Army Europe noncommissioned officer was sentenced Friday to two years in prison for sodomy of a minor and child pornography possession.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Barberi, 38, was also given a bad-conduct discharge for the sexual abuse of a young girl from the time she was 11 until her 15th birthday. The seven-member court-martial panel found Barberi guilty July 2.

According to the girl’s testimony, Barberi had persuaded her to perform oral sex on him by showing her a video and telling her, "That’s what little girls do … ."

When she grew older and began to understand that his actions were wrong, she testified, he eventually stopped making her have oral sex with him. But he became physically abusive and controlling, she said, until she decided to report him in 2006.

The child pornography conviction arose from nude pictures of the girl stored on a computer disc at Barberi’s quarters that investigators had seized, along with pornographic stories involving sex with children.

Barberi never took the stand nor did he directly address the panel before sentencing. Instead, his lawyer, David Court, read a statement in which Barberi asked that his sentence not affect his family’s economic well-being, even though he was in the midst of a divorce. "I love the Army. I want to stay in the Army," Court read. "I don’t want my family to be a welfare family."

The statement also mentioned that he’d been a good soldier, during two enlistments, as evidenced by coins he’d received from, among others, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It said he’d served for 18 years. It also said he had developed heat stroke during the first Gulf War and was "the kind of person who couldn’t go outside if it was over 80 degrees and the humidity was over 80 percent" yet had still declined a medical discharge.

The sentence seemed to be a blow to the prosecution.

Maj. Jacqueline Tubbs, a prosecutor in the case, noted in her sentencing argument that Barberi’s statement contained no apology for what he’d done. Court objected, and the judge told the jury that apologies were not required in such statements and that they should not be influenced by their absence.

Tubbs asked the jury to impose the maximum allowable punishment of 30 years’ confinement.

Court called that request "ridiculous," saying that Barberi’s crimes were not the most heinous of their type and that he was not a threat to society. Court said his client’s required registration as a sex offender would have a punitive effect in that whenever a child was molested, Barberi would be questioned by police.

Court also told the jury that deterrence, one of the stated goals of jurisprudence, isn’t an especially valid concept. "Others are only going to be deterred if they think they’re going to get caught," he said. "Nobody thinks he’s going to get caught."

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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