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Airman pleads guilty to running away with 14-year-old girl

July 18, 1997 GMT

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AP) _ A military judge gave a four-year prison term and a bad conduct discharge to an airman who ran off with a 14-year-old girl he met on the Internet.

Senior Airman Brooker Maltais, 22, pleaded guilty Thursday to nine charges, including statutory rape and sodomy. But he insisted that his motive for taking the girl away from Rochester, N.Y., was not to have sex with her but to help her.

``The intentions were good,″ Maltais said. ``The actions were criminally stupid.″

The girl’s mother, Cheryl Kean, testified that her daughter was ``naive, manipulative and smart,″ and tricked the airman into believing he was saving her from a bad family situation.

Both the mother and the daughter, Ceara O’Connell, have discussed the case publicly, and the girl spoke on television Wednesday about her love for Maltais.

The airman told the judge he knew the sexual part of their relationship was wrong, but she pursued it and he didn’t say no.

Maltais said he loves Ceara and would like to marry her some day. Before the sentence was announced, the two waved at each other from across the courtroom.

They met through an Internet chat room devoted to a vampire role-playing game. A tip generated by the syndicated ``Maury Povich Show″ helped authorities find Ceara, who was reported missing Dec. 19 after her mother dropped her off at a Rochester shopping mall.

Maltais was arrested on April 16 in Marion, Ill., after being absent without leave from Offutt since Dec. 24. He could have received up to 66 years in a military prison, but prosecutors asked for six years and a dishonorable discharge. His bad conduct discharge is a step less severe.

Col. Dennis E. Kansala, the judge at the court-martial, also doubled the time credited as already served by Maltais, from 91 to 182 days. The judge faulted base authorities for letting the media photograph a shackled Maltais, calling it punishment before trial.