The Sun Herald
POSTED: 09:33 p.m. HST, Apr 24, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 04:39 a.m. HST, Apr 25, 2013
BILOXI, Miss. » Tech. Sgt. Bobby Bass sat in silence for a few seconds then glanced at his wife, who was in tears, as the jury read his sentence — six months in a military jail, the loss of one rank and his pay docked $1,000 a month for three months.
Bass avoided a dishonorable discharge Wednesday at his court-martial for abuse, assault and cruelty as an Air Force basic training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in 2009.
The same jury convicted him Tuesday on 31 of 35 counts that included abusive sexual contact for ordering two young trainees to put Icy Hot on their genitals.
The jury deliberated for 4 1/2 hours before deciding his fate in a case that is connected with the 2012 sex scandal at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, where the Air Force conducts its basic training. In that scandal, most of the cases were male instructors and female trainees. With Bass’, the trainees were all male.
The senior defense attorney for Bass, Capt. Antoinette Quinn, said she didn’t believe he should go to jail at all, but that avoiding a dishonorable discharge “could be considered a win.”
Col. Polly Kenny, who has handled the media coverage of the Lackland sex scandal, said there is “no winner in a situation such as this,” but said she felt the jury did its job.
Based on the charges he was convicted of, Bass faced up to 33 years in prison. The prosecution asked for at least two.
In order to get a sentence, six of the eight jurors had to concur. The jury interrupted sentencing deliberations Wednesday morning to express a concern that Bass would be required to register as a sex offender.
But an official with local law enforcement who deals with sex offender registration in Mississippi told the Sun Herald that Bass would only have to if the court-martial specifically required him to do so as part of his sentence.
Bass’ court-martial was held at Keesler AFB because that’s where he is stationed. It is the only Lackland scandal trial that has been held somewhere other than Lackland.
Lt. Victoria Porto, a spokeswoman for Keesler AFB, said Bass would begin his sentence at Keesler. The Air Force corrections system would determine if he is to be transferred to another military jail.
She said that at the completion of his sentence, he is expected to return to duty at Keesler, where they “may or may not initiate administrative discharge based upon his court-martial conviction.”
During the weeklong trial, 14 trainees from one of Bass’ basic training groups testified that 50 to 60 trainees were ordered to strip naked and crowd into a shower stall meant for 12, vote out one of their own who had complained of mistreatment and mock their trainee leaders doing push-ups in their underwear. One was ordered to shave his body hair in front of other trainees and others told of being slammed or kicked.
Bass was found guilty of all 11 counts of dereliction of duty and failure to obey a lawful order, 13 of 16 counts of cruelty and maltreatment, both counts of abusive sexual contact and all four counts of assault in connection with his time at Lackland. He was convicted of one count of having an unprofessional relationship with a man under his supervision while deployed overseas in 2007.
For his court-martial, Bass chose to have a jury mix of officers and enlisted and chose the option of having the jury decide his sentence.
After screening by the prosecution and defense, the jury was made up of two officers and six enlisted men and women.
His defense team included two members of Keesler’s Area Defense Counsel, Capt. Rachel Van Maasdam and Capt. David Cromwell.