TINKER AIR FORCE BASE — A roommate discovered the disturbing video titles on the computer of Airman 1st Class Chad McClelland-Hall while both were deployed last year to Saudi Arabia.
After struggling with what to do for a few days, the roommate went to his superiors. An investigation ensued.
Earlier this month, McClelland-Hall found himself in a courtroom at Tinker Air Force Base facing a court-martial on charges that included possession of child pornography.
The military judge, Lt. Col. Grant Kratz, found McClelland-Hall guilty of possession of child pornography.
In a brief statement before Kratz imposed a sentence, McClelland-Hall said he was ready to accept his punishment and move forward with his life. He described himself as a hard worker and loving father who asked that his sentence not keep him away from his family or young son for too long.
“Please have mercy on me, your honor,'' he concluded.
Kratz ruled that McClelland-Hall, a 2007 high school graduate, be confined for 20 months, reduced to the lowest rank and receive a bad conduct discharge. He also will have to register as a sex offender. Kratz's ruling still must be approved by Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Litchfield, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker, who could lessen the sentence.
The Department of Defense recently changed a portion of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to make it easier to prosecute child pornography cases that occur in war zones, overseas and certain other situations. While cases such as McClelland-Hall's continue to be an issue for the military, a Pentagon spokesman downplayed the severity of the problem.
“While we agree that this is a particularly disgusting crime, it simply does not appear to be — purely from a numbers perspective — that big of a problem for us,” Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale wrote in an email.
The Defense Computer Forensics Laboratory examines evidence in child pornography cases against active-duty military, civilian employees and families of service members. The lab performed 391 such examinations in fiscal year 2012, a decrease from the 454 it performed in 2011.
So far this year, the Army has tried 50 soldiers on child pornography charges. Of those, 45 were convicted and five acquitted. In 2011, 37 soldiers were convicted on child pornography charges.
The Air Force reported 11 child pornography convictions so far this year and 16 in 2011.
The numbers don't include service members tried in civilian courts. Defense Department officials said those numbers aren't tracked making it difficult to determine how widespread the problem might be.
A Tinker spokesman said McClelland-Hall's was the second child pornography case at the base since 2009.
A spokesman at Altus Air Force Base reported no child pornography cases for at least the past five years.
Despite repeated requests, Fort Sill, the state's largest Army installation, did not provide a response before publication.
McClelland-Hall enlisted in 2009 and served as a specialist with the 72nd Security Forces Squadron based at Tinker. His court-martial took place over two days in a small courtroom on the Oklahoma air base.
McClelland-Hall's roommate described how he found the pornographic titles after McClelland-Hall asked for help fixing his computer while both were stationed at Eskan Village Air Base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Military investigators testified how when confronted the clearly embarrassed airman became teary-eyed and emotional, and how McClelland-Hall willingly demonstrated how he had used his computer to search for, download and briefly view several child pornography videos. Investigators said he told them he'd watched them about 10 times for no more than 10 seconds.
From Saudi Arabia, the computer made its way to Tinker, where an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations selected and sent 27 images and videos to the Defense Criminal Forensics Lab for analysis.
Videos not deleted
Military prosecutors argued that McClelland-Hall previewed some of the videos while they were being downloaded, but did not stop the download. They also said that other videos that were downloaded were kept in a file on the computer and not deleted.
His civilian defense attorneys argued that McClelland-Hall mistakenly and unintentionally downloaded the material. When he saw what it was he sought to delete it, but didn't know how, they said.
McClelland-Hall, dressed in his blue Air Force uniform with close-cropped blond hair, did not testify.
While we agree that this is a particularly disgusting crime, it simply does not appear to be — purely from a numbers perspective — that big of a problem for us.”
Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale,