A colonel with more than 30 years’ military experience was booted from the U.S. Air Force and sentenced to a year in prison Friday after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography.
Judge J. Wesley Moore deliberated for less than 2 1/2 hours Friday before sentencing Col. William R. Jones, the former Shaw Air Force Base 20th Fighter Wing vice commander, to 12 months incarceration and dismissal from the service, Fox News reported.
The punishment was handed down two days after Jones pleaded guilty to one count of violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — namely “wrongfully possessing images and videos of child pornography.”
The South Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force notified the Air Force Office of Special Investigation (OSI) last year that an individual residing on Shaw AFB in Sumter was believed to be downloading child pornography. The military took them up on the tip and narrowed its sights on Jones in February 2016.
Investigators soon located an external hard drive owned by Jones containing more than 7,000 images and 10 videos located within a folder labeled “jail bait,” as well as a classified document of unspecified nature, Fox News reported. Additional images were also uncovered from his laptop, desktop and iPhone, according to the network.
Jones began downloading the images in August 2012 and continued to do so until he landed on the radar of investigators last February, according to court-martial testimony cited by Fox.
In the interim, Jones became vice commander of the 20th Fighter Wing in 2014. He was reassigned in 2016 due to an unspecified loss of confidence, however, and was formally charged that summer with downloading material from 2015 to 2016.
Jones had claimed during his court-martial that he had accidentally amassed the collection of child pornography while searching the internet for images and video of young adults, the Sumter Item reported Saturday. Nonetheless, he read a letter to the court during sentencing apologizing for his actions and acknowledging what he did was wrong, Fox reported.
Military prosecutors had sought a sentence of nine years in prison, Sumter’s Item reported.