Monday, January 31, 2011

Chief Master Sergeant sentenced to 20 months for sexual harassment of subordinates

A former Chief Master Sergeant for the US Air Force was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment and a dishonorable discharge for having "affairs" with ten subordinates. Chief Master Sgt. William Gurney was convicted of 15 counts after a 5 day court martial. Scott Air Force Base, Ill was the site of the court martial. According to the complaint, the sexual misconduct lasted between 2007 and 2009.

Gurney pleaded guilty to seven charges of dereliction of duty for failing to maintain a professional relationship with seven female subordinates, one violation of wrongful misuse of government property, one violation of indecent conduct with a female master sergeant and four violations of committing adultery with four female subordinates, according to a news release from the 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs team at Scott.

Gurney entered the blind plea because he was“derelict in misusing his position by consensually exchanging explicit pictures with female subordinates and by fondling or kissing them.” He also sexted, kissed, and fondled female subordinates, and had sex with his wife with a married subordinate present.

According to prosecutor Capt. Tania Bryant, “As a chief master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, it was his responsibility to lead, mentor and guide his enlisted troops,” she said. “How did he do that? He abused his position, marred the reputation of AFMC and blackened the eye of the Air Force.”

Defense attorney Maj. Lance Wood said the misconduct was“almost exclusively about mutual affairs with adult women” and that Gurney took “moral and legal responsibility” for his crimes.

However, prosecuting Maj. Patricia Gruen showed photos of Gurney's penis, a photo he sent to a senior airman. Gruen said that that photo, and not his stripes, “was how Chief Gurney chose to represent himself and the U.S. Air Force..He was out there as one of the Air Force’s very, very, very, very best,” she said. “He was Superman. They were flattered and they couldn’t imagine a command chief paid any attention to them, much less directed attention to their careers. But this Superman charged for his services, and he ultimately charged a price they wouldn’t pay.”

During a speech just before sentencing, Gurney said “I essentially lived a double life in which my actions were not those of a senior leader at a majcom of the Air Force,” Gurney said, crying and pausing several times as he read from a statement. “I am not a bad person. I made some bad decisions. I got caught up in a cycle of sin.”

He also talked about how his two daughters were leery of entering a grocery store because of fear of being recognized. The oldest daughter, just 15, is taunted at school because of her father's actions.

Gurney’s confinement was scheduled to begin Friday night, but his case isn’t over. The convening authority, 18th Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, will review the sentence and have the final say. And Gurney’s dishonorable discharge and his prison term trigger an automatic appeal to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

Gurney and lawyers for both sides declined to talk with reporters after sentencing. Air Force Materiel Command spokeswoman JoAnne Rumple released a statement on the case, but it did not say if commander Gen. Donald Hoffman has been following the case or he had any comment.

Michelle Lindo McCluer, the executive director of the National Institute Of Military Justice, said “A dishonorable discharge is the worst kind of punitive punishment you can give at a court-martial.  I’ve seen that given to people convicted of rape and murder and occasionally desertion. To give it in a case like this? That’s definitely sending a message.”

Besides the dishonorable discharge, Gurney was demoted to airman basic and will be stripped of his  $6,215.70 a month  pay and allowances while incarcerated.

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