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Marine, Daniel E. DeSmit swore to live by a code of honor. Semper fidelis, always faithful. But DeSmit shattered that pledge repeatedly — directing dozens of live Internet videos of children having sex with each other.
A military judge in January found DeSmit, 44, guilty of a litany of sex offenses and sentenced him to years behind bars. In an undisclosed pretrial agreement, the Marine Corps slashed his prison term to 20 years. The report was released only after AP appealed.5 things you should know BEFORE dating someone in the Military
Neither is the misleading prison sentence. An AP investigation found the single largest category of inmates in military prisons to be child sex offenders. Yet a full ing of their crimes and how much time they actually spend behind bars is shielded by an opaque system of justice.
Child sex assaults committed by service members have received scant attention in Washington, where Congress and the Defense Department have focused primarily on preventing and prosecuting adult-on-adult crimes. And those steps were belated. Despite years of warning s that adult sexual assault in the ranks was a persistent problem, it took a documentary film about the situation to shock lawmakers and military leaders into action. In just over half of those cases, the victims were children.
Since the beginning of this year, children were the victims in out of sex crime convictions against service members — including charges ranging from rape to distributing child pornography. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass. The military justice system operates independently of state and federal criminal courts.
The U. Constitution mandates a presumption of openness in civilian courts — trials are open to the public, as are court filings, including motions and transcripts, with exceptions for documents that have been sealed. Anyone can walk into any county or U. That openness is deed to provide ability. But visibility in connection with military trials is minimal. While brief trial are now made public, court records and other documents are released only after many FOIA requests, appeals and fees, and often months of waiting. Over the past five months, AP has filed 17 separate requests under the FOIA for documents from more than military sexual assault cases that ended with convictions.
At the time this story was published, the military services had provided complete trial records for five cases and partial records for more than 70 others. Data on sex crimes committed by civilians is not comparable to the conviction and confinement figures maintained by the Pentagon. But a study of child maltreatment by the U. Health and Human Services Department and Pentagon data indicate incidents of child sexual abuse are higher in the general population than among military families.
Asked why the biggest group of military inmates is behind bars for sex crimes against kids, Defense Department officials said judges and juries view these crimes as intolerable and are more likely to impose harsher prison terms. Adult sexual assault cases can be more ambiguous, particularly if alcohol is involved, and punishments can vary.
They also said military prosecutors pursue verdicts in cases their civilian counterparts would never take to court, and the confinement s reflect that commitment. Air Force Col. Chuck Killion, director of the Air Force judiciary, said that since the Air Force has secured convictions in out of child sexual assault cases — an 89 percent rate. While child sex crimes may not be swept under the rug, the Defense Department does not make it easy for the public to learn about them. DeSmit was convicted by a military judge alone of conspiracy to commit sexual assault and rape of children, aggravated sexual abuse ofsexual abuse of and possession of child pornography.
NCIS investigations, which include evidence from the crime scene and witness interviews, are not court documents but are used by military leaders to decide what action to take against a service member. The AP identified him by the dates and events left in the document. The effect of the policy is an enhanced degree of privacy for convicted service members not available to civilian defendants.
Most records from criminal cases in state and federal courts are public, although the privacy of the victims of violent crime is protected.
DeSmit bragged about having sex with 8- and 9-year-old girls while on vacation in Thailand. He was planning a similar two-week vacation to the Philippines. In these online chats, DeSmit told Ontong what he wanted from the prepubescent girls she would provide him when he visited. He described his preferred ages and body types. DeSmit was concerned about what sex acts these children would perform with him when he visited, according to the records. DeSmit said he wanted Ontong to ensure that he had sex every day.
DeSmit ed the Marine Corps in He is from Kalamazoo, Michigan, has been married twice and has three children. The investigation into DeSmit began in December when a civilian Navy employee was caught with thousands of sexually explicit images and videos of children. Investigators tracked his payments through a Western Union to Ontong. In one video, two children were asked to kiss each other on the mouth and breasts, according to the case file. DeSmit told investigators he would masturbate while watching these videos.
Ontong was arrested in Mayand her trial in the Philippines is ongoing. One of the victims was ordered to participate by her mother. DeSmit eventually canceled his trip to the Philippines. Officials said his crimes discredited the Marine Corps. He pleaded guilty to 18 counts, including conspiracy to commit rape of. In the military justice system, DeSmit could be released from prison after serving one-third of his term. In federal courts, judges have the final say in determining the length of a sentence. It was eliminated for federal defendants convicted of crimes after Both the military and civilian court systems make use of plea deals before cases go to trial.
Defendants gamble that a guilty plea will lead to a lesser sentence than they might get from a judge or jury. But military judges are not allowed to review the pretrial agreement before sentencing, and their decisions are not binding. The defendant always gets the lesser sentence. In civilian courts, by contrast, the judge is privy to terms of any pretrial agreement, called a plea bargain, and has the final say.
A judge could decide the agreed-upon sentence is too lenient and impose a different one.
Since the beginning of July alone, 31 soldiers, sailors and Marines were convicted of sex crimes against children. In 20 cases, there were pretrial agreements.
Ike V. Chisholm was convicted in April of raping and sexually abusingaccording to the court-martial summary. Chisholm was sentenced to 30 years confinement, the summary said. Army Spc. David L. Benitez pleaded guilty in July to sexual assault of and his prison term was reduced by 15 years — from 25 to Navy Seaman Apprentice David Olson got three years behind bars instead of nine after he pleaded guilty in September to sexual abuse of and unlawful entry.
The Navy was the first to make the monthly available, a move it said would lead to greater transparency. However, there is no uniform method for releasing the summaries, which provide the names of the convicted, the dates of conviction, lengths of sentences and a brief description of the crimes. The Army publishes only three months of trial at a time. When the September were posted, the June were removed and were no longer accessible online. Documents from court-martial proceedings, such as the charges, courtroom transcripts and pretrial agreements, are available only through the FOIA, a potentially time-consuming process with no assurances the requested documents will be released.
The military does not have a comparable repository. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his post in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban. The case of Army Pvt. Jameson T. Hazelbower, convicted of sexually abusing children, illustrates that point. Hazelbower went AWOL from his Army unit in Kentucky while he was a suspect in two separate investigations of sexual abuse of minors.
Authorities quickly discovered he was also pursuing another teenage girl. Hazelbower pleaded guilty in the civilian system to aggravated criminal sexual abuse and indecent solicitation ofboth felonies, and received 30 months of probation. Illinois authorities then returned Hazelbower to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he was convicted in May of child rape, possession of child pornography, sexual abuse of and other charges. For those crimes, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison. During that period, no records from the trial are permitted to be released, said Valerie Florez, the freedom of information and privacy officer at Fort Campbell.
And even then, the release of records is governed by a slow-moving review process. Lawyers also struggle to get records. Russell Butler, a civilian attorney and executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, recalled a case in which he represented the victim of a crime committed by a service member. The military prosecutors and defense counsel objected to Butler receiving court orders, motions and pleadings. In the past, it has been the voices of victims that have changed the way the Defense Department investigates and prosecutes sex crimes.
Media reports triggered a Pentagon investigation that determined 83 women were sexually assaulted at a gathering of Navy aviators in Las Vegas.
For members of Congress from both political parties, the documentary hit hard.Military on teen sex chat
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