Air Force pilot sentenced for child porn charge
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Air Force pilot sentenced for child porn charge

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A U.S. Air Force pilot who has flown 2,500 combat hours was given jail time and five years probation in 7th Circuit Court Monday after pleading guilty to one count of possession, manufacture and distribution of child pornography.

With his confession and conviction, Capt. Michael Fech, 31, of Box Elder loses his military career and benefits, according to his attorney, John Rusch.

"This is a drastic black eye for what has been a very successful military career," Rusch told Circuit Judge Jeff Davis. A graduate of the Air Force Academy, the B-1B pilot cooperated with authorities from the beginning, his attorney said. 

Rusch explained that the case began with a "small number of images" found on Fech's computer in December 2013. Federal authorities transferred the case to circuit court because there is a mandatory 5-year minimum sentence on federal child-pornography cases.

As part of the agreement to transfer the case to state court, Fech agreed not to request a suspended imposition of sentence that would have given him the opportunity to ask that his record be sealed. He will have to register as a sex offender.

Fech's attorney did not specifically link his client's actions to post-traumatic stress disorder, but hinted that there could be a connection. Fech is undergoing treatment, Rusch said.

When offered the chance to speak, Fech told Davis that he is trying to make the best of a horrible situation by retraining for another career. 

"I was living my dream job and lost it through my own actions," Fech said, expressing appreciation for the "wonderful support" he has received from friends and colleagues despite his lapse in judgment.

"I'm shocked and saddened," Davis said, adding that he had no qualms with the sentence negotiated between Rusch and the Pennington County State's Attorney's Office that called for a suspended execution of the 5-year sentence and 180 days in jail. Davis suspended 90 days of jail time and authorized work release.

The judge then asked Fech why he had not sought help if he knew he knew he had problems.

"There 's a big negative statement as a pilot to seek help," Fech said. "I tried to handle the problem" himself.

Contact Andrea J. Cook at 394-8423 or andrea.cook@rapidcityjournal.com

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