An Army paratrooper pleaded guilty Thursday to engaging in sex acts on a military-themed gay pornographic Web site after a judge denied a request to dismiss the case.
Pfc. Richard T. Ashley, one of seven members of the 82nd Airborne Division charged with appearing on the site, faces up to a year in prison, forfeiture of two-thirds pay for one year, reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge.
Ashley appeared calm in court Thursday, appearing with a military lawyer and a civilian lawyer. His family sat behind him in the courtroom as the judge questioned him about his plea.
Ashley, Pfc. Wesley K. Mitten and Pvt. Kagen B. Mullen were charged with pandering, sodomy and wrongfully engaging in sexual acts over the Internet for money. Mitten and Mullen, who also faces adultery charges, have pleaded not guilty.
The 82nd Airborne says that four other soldiers, whose names were not released, received nonjudicial punishment for appearing on the Web site. They were reduced in rank to private, forfeited half a month’s pay for two months, performed extra work and were restricted to Fort Bragg for 45 days.
The Army has recommended that all seven be discharged.
The 15,000 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne are among the Army’s most elite soldiers, having volunteered to serve in a unit that trains to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours.
The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy states that “homosexual orientation alone is not a bar to service, but homosexual conduct is incompatible with military service.” Service members who violate the policy are removed from the military.