Air Force colonel sentenced for child porn, mishandling classified documents

A colonel was sentenced Friday to 12 months in prison in South Carolina — and dismissed from the U.S. Air Force — after he pleaded guilty in a child pornography scandal.

Col. William Jones, former 20th Fighter Wing vice commander, was sentenced on Shaw Air Force Base. It took Judge J. Wesley Moore less than 2 1/2 hours to hand down the sentencing. Jones’ wife and daughter hugged each other as the judge read the verdict. 

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Jones had pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, child erotica and mishandling classified documents.

The South Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force notified the Air Force Office of Special Investigation (OSI) that they had a reason to believe someone living on Shaw AFB was downloading child pornography from the internet. OSI began investigating the claims and it led them Jones.

More than 7,000 images, 10 videos and a classified document were found in a folder labeled “jail bait” on an external hard drive owned by Jones. Images were also found on his laptop, desktop computer and iPhone.  

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Testimony during the trial revealed Jones began downloading the images in Aug 2012 and continued until around the time OSI began investigating him in February 2016.  Jones was relieved from his position as vice commander shortly after.

During the sentencing phase of the trial, Jones described his childhood as tumultuous. His father killed himself when Jones was seven and his mother abandoned him and his brother shortly after. Jones also told the judge months before he committed the crimes in October of 2015 his adopted brother committed suicide. A few months later his adopted mother tried to kill herself.

Jones read a letter to the court acknowledging what he did was wrong, and apologizing. He made one request to Judge Moore: to keep health benefits so his wife could continue to get care.

Other witnesses called by his defense team consisted mostly of retired officers who were deployed downrange in Jordan with Jones. Each took the stand and they all gave similar comments about his character. Driven, exceptional, caring of his airmen, go-getter were the words they used to describe Jones. Through tears Retired Lt Col. Kendall Dean Potter stated, “Anybody that knows him or has served under him is trying to make sense of it,” Potter said. “Maybe he snapped, something happened, I don’t know.” CMSgt Henry Hamby, also deployed with Jones, told the court he felt blessed to know Jones. “I owe everything to him as an officer. I have a hard time believing this. It’s so out of character,” Hamby said before the court. The same seven witnesses declared they wanted to paint a picture of who he was as a person. They didn’t want people to only judge him on “eight months of darkness.”  

His wife and daughter also took the stand during the trial.  They both stated faith will get them through what is to come and that they support him no matter the outcome.  

“I know him better than anyone,” the wife said on the stand. “He is a great father, great friend and he loves teaching people…. and I love him.” 

Terace Garnier is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Columbia, South Carolina. Follow her on twitter: @TeraceGarnier


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