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Air Force official convicted of mistreating women

Air Force official convicted of mistreating women

An Air Force official characterized by a prosecutor as a charismatic, articulate "Superman" who sent racy text messages and photos to lower-ranking female subordinates was convicted Thursday of two of five counts by jurors who found that his sexual advances amounted to mistreatment.
A six-man panel of officers at southwestern Illinois' Scott Air Force Base deliberated more than six hours before returning the verdicts, acquitting Chief Master Sgt. William Gurney of Ohio during a court-martial trial of three counts that alleged he fondled one of the women and twice abused his authority. Gurney already had pleaded guilty Monday to 13 counts alleging sexual misconduct and adultery.
Gurney, a 27-year Air Force veteran, faces up to 16 1/2 years in jail and a possible dishonorable discharge. He also could be forced to give up all military pay and benefits, and see his rank reduced to the lowest level. A sentencing hearing is set for Friday.
Gurney was the top enlisted man at the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, when the allegations of sexual improprieties surfaced in 2009.
Air Force Maj. Patricia Gruen, Gurney's chief prosecutor, declined The Associated Press' request for an interview after the verdicts. Attorneys for Gurney, who showed no emotion other than a persistent frown when the verdicts were read, left the courtroom without commenting. Both sides were told at the trial's start not to discuss the case with anyone not directly involved with the proceedings.
Two Air Force women who were central to four of the five charges, including all three counts on which Gurney was acquitted, sat in the back row with their trembling hands folded on their laps before the jury's decision was announced.
During closing arguments earlier Thursday, Gruen portrayed Gurney as predatory with Air Force women whom he found alluring, peppering them with unwanted sexual texts after the women turned to him for mentorship or, at least once, help with getting a transfer from a Texas base to one closer to her Ohio parents.
"He used this organization like his own personal Match.com," Gruen said. To his alleged victims, "he was Superman. They were flattered. They could not believe he was giving them any attention, much less direct attention. (But) this Superman charged for his services, and he charged what none of the witnesses wanted to pay."
Gurney's chief attorney, Maj. Gwendolyn Beitz, countered that the women forming the basis of the five counts played along with Gurney in racy text exchanges she admitted were an unseemly "train wreck Chief Gurney created." Beitz insisted the women blamed Gurney out of fear they would get ensnared in "an investigation they wanted nothing to do with."
Jurors apparently struggled with whether one of the women who accused Gurney of unwelcomed fondling in August 2009 had completely spurned the advances, asking the judge late in deliberations whether a military member's rank should be considered in deciding whether consent for the advances was freely given. Jurors also asked a question relating to the prospect of one person's influence over another, ultimately opting to clear Gurney of that count alleging inappropriate sexual contact.
Gurney, in court Monday, blamed extramarital affairs he had with married female subordinates and his inappropriate sexual advances toward others on getting "caught up in a cycle of sin." He said his indiscretions dating to mid-2007 included sex with four married, lower-ranking women in the Air Force, and he acknowledged exchanging sexually explicit pictures with some of the women and kissing or fondling others.
Among the charges Gurney pleaded guilty to were seven counts of dereliction of duty _ one for each enlisted woman he was accused of making inappropriate advances toward _ and four counts of adultery. He also admitted to using his military-issued cell phone and computer to exchange explicit e-mails and texts, and to having had sex with his wife in front of a married female enlistee whose husband was unaware.
Gurney had 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.


Updated : 2021-08-06 07:11 GMT+08:00