Court-Martial Underway at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas

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What are court-martial charges and possible penalties for sexual misconduct?

Sexual misconduct is a serious offense both in and outside of the military. In Wichita Falls, Texas, at Sheppard Air Force Base, a court-martial concerning such charges is underway. The defendant, Airman First Class Austin Beck is accused of having inappropriate sexual communications with a 15-year-old girl. At the time of the alleged communications, Beck was 20-years-old and newly married.

Court-Martial Charges

The charges, one of a lewd act on a child, and one of an attempt to entice a child, include allegations that Beck engaged in text communications with the girl and sent her sexually explicit pictures as well. The girl’s mother testified that she contacted authorities when she became aware of text communications between her daughter and an adult man. Beck has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The Defense

The first contact between Beck and the girl apparently took place in March of this year through a dating app called Tinder which drew its data from a Facebook account in which the girl had misrepresented herself as a 22-year-old.

While having claimed to be considerably older than she was may seem to have been a mitigating circumstance, during a videotape of his interrogation, Beck admitted that the girl later told him that she was “16 or 15,” and said he knew he should have stopped communicating with her at that time, but that he was “not thinking clearly.”

The attorneys defending Beck assert that “sexting” messages were hand-selected and that much of the other content was not sexual in nature. They also state that the defendant has no past evidence of sexual interactions with minors, and has not been found to possess any child pornography.

How the Defendant Was Caught

Clearly, the texting relationship had some duration, since 450 messages were exchanged between the man and the girl. In two of the texts, the girl made reference to her age (15 years) and to the fact that she was a minor. The prosecution claims that at least 60 of the messages were exchanged after the girl’s admission of her youthful status.

Under oath, the mother of the girl said that she had been monitoring her daughter’s online activity. When the mother also found a great many calls between her daughter and a particular phone number, she reported the case to law enforcement and also contacted the Office of Special Investigations at Sheppard.
Beck was eventually arrested after the girl, cooperating with authorities, made a date to meet with him at a house near the base. As soon as he entered the back door as she had instructed, he was taken into custody.
If Beck is found guilty of the offenses her is accused of, he faces possible jail time and dishonorable discharge from the Air Force. If you find yourself confronted with a potential court-martial, it is imperative that you get assistance from an attorney experienced in the specialized field of court martial law.

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