MASCOUTAH, Ill. -- A top Ohio-based Air Force official characterized by a prosecutor as a charismatic, articulate "Superman" who sent racy text messages and photos to lower-ranking female subordinates was convicted Thursday of two of five counts by jurors who found that his sexual advances amounted to mistreatment.
A six-man panel of officers at southwestern Illinois' Scott Air Force Base acquitted Chief Master Sgt. William Gurney of three counts that alleged he fondled one of the women and twice abused his authority. Gurney already had pleaded guilty to 13 counts alleging sexual misconduct and adultery.
Gurney, a 27-year Air Force veteran, faces up to 16 1/2 years in jail and could face a dishonorable discharge. A sentencing hearing is set for Friday.
Gurney was the top enlisted man at the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, when allegations surfaced in 2009.
Air Force Maj. Patricia Gruen portrayed Gurney as predatory with women in the Air Force whom he found alluring, peppering them with unwanted sexual texts after the women turned to him for mentorship or, at least once, help with getting a transfer from a Texas base to one closer to her Ohio parents.
To his alleged victims, "he was Superman. They were flattered. They could not believe he was giving them any attention, much less direct attention," Gruen told jurors. But "this Superman charged for his services, and he charged what none of the witnesses wanted to pay."
Gurney "minimized them to body parts," Gruen added. "He takes what he can get. The problem with the chief is he doesn't know when to back off."
Gurney's chief attorney, Maj. Gwendolyn Beitz, countered that the women forming the basis of the five counts that were tried played along with Gurney in racy text exchanges she admitted were an unseemly "train wreck Chief Gurney created."
"No doubt that you disapprove," Beitz told jurors. "No doubt there's dismay that somebody who had risen so high risked it all" with charges that Gurney conceded during a videotaped statement to an investigator could cost him his career.
Beitz insisted the women blamed Gurney out of fear they would get ensnared in "an investigation they wanted nothing to do with."
"There's a possibility they're not telling you the whole truth up there," Beitz said.
Gurney, in court Monday, blamed extramarital affairs he had with married female subordinates and his inappropriate sexual advances toward others on getting "caught up in a cycle of sin." He said his indiscretions dating to mid-2007 included sex with four married, lower-ranking women in the Air Force, and he acknowledged exchanging sexually explicit pictures with some of the women and kissing or fondling others.
Among the charges Gurney pleaded guilty to were seven counts of dereliction of duty -- one for each enlisted woman he was accused of making inappropriate advances toward -- and four counts of adultery. He also admitted to using his military-issued cell phone and computer to exchange explicit e-mails and texts, and to having had sex with his wife in front of a married female enlistee whose husband was unaware.
Gurney had transferred to Wright-Patterson in 2008 from Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where he was command chief of the Ogden Air Logistics Center and 75th Air Base Wing.
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