- Associated Press - Thursday, August 5, 2010

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Air Force ordered court-martial proceedings for an Ohio-based chief master sergeant accused of the repeated sexual harassment of female subordinates, including inappropriate touching and sending explicit text messages.

William Gurney, a 27-year veteran, will be tried Dec. 6 at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, the Air Force said Thursday. Sgt. Gurney was the top-ranking enlisted man at the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton when the allegations surfaced last year.

A military judge heard testimony at Wright-Patterson in May that included allegations of extramarital relations, inappropriate touching, and sending sexually oriented text messages involving nine Air Force women.

The Air Force says Sgt. Gurney will face 20 counts, including wrongful sexual contact, adultery, maltreatment of subordinates and dereliction of duty by misuse of his position. Sgt. Gurney also is charged with misusing government property for allegedly sending numerous sexual messages and photos with his military-issued phone.

A charge of obstruction of justice was added to the initial counts because Sgt. Gurney allegedly tried to influence the testimony of a witness, the Air Force said in a statement.

A representative for his defense team said it had no comment Thursday.

Air Force spokeswoman Karen Petitt said Sgt. Gurney will remain assigned to administrative duties pending trial. She said Sgt. Gurney will be tried before a military judge and a jury of five members of the Air Force. If found guilty, he could face punishments including imprisonment and dishonorable discharge.

“The Air Force takes all allegations of misconduct seriously, and holds its people to the highest standards. It presumes the innocence of the accused until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” an Air Force statement said.

Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, 18th Air Force commander at Scott, ordered the trial after reviewing the report of the military judge who oversaw the May hearings.

Sgt. Gurney was reassigned to a desk job in November. He transferred to Wright-Patterson in 2008 from Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where he was command chief of the Ogden Air Logistics Center and 75th Air Base Wing.


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