Air Force Times is reporting that more than 40 influential people, including the current and a former Air Force Materiel Command commander, asked for leniency in the case of William Gurney, the former AFMC command chief.
Gurney faced 20 months in prison and a dishonorable discharge for adultery, indecent conduct and mistreating junior enlisted airmen following his January conviction.
Apparently the pleas for a lesser sentence were convincing because Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, 18th Air Force commander and the convening authority in the case, reduced Gurney’s sentence to four months and reversed the dishonorable discharge.
Air Force Times said Gurney, a former chief master sergeant, left the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., in May and remains on appellate leave status while the U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals considers his case. If the appeal is unsuccessful, he will leave the Air Force as an airman basic with a bad conduct discharge and no retirement benefits.
Retired Gen. Bruce Carlson, now the director of the National Reconnaissance Office, hired Gurney to fill the top enlisted post in AFMC. According to data obtained by Air Force Times through the Freedom of Information Act, Carlson’s letter to Allardice said, “Gurney understands the nature of his actions and is working to rectify his mistakes.” He added that Gurney’s prison sentence was “incredibly extreme and way out of the norm … and seems to violate the Air Force’s concept of confinement.”
Gen. Donald Hoffman, the current AFMC commander, asked Allardice to consider the impact of the sentence on Gurney’s wife and children.
“In short, Gurney should be held accountable for his actions,” Hoffman is quoted by The Times. “However, … unlike debtor prisons of the past when family members were called to atone for debts of their loved ones, Chief Master Sgt. Gurney’s family should not be held accountable for his actions.”
Chief Master Sgt. Eric Jaren, now the AFMC command chief, asked for early release and retirement benefits for Gurney.
“AB Gurney’s first 25 years of service should not go unnoticed,” The Times quoted from Jaren’s letter to Allardice. “An offer of mercy will help him support his family who have also given the better part of their life in service to the Air Force.”
In his own letter to Allardice, Gurney admitted his actions were wrong and said he had “identified the root causes of my behavioral aberration, made necessary corrections, sought forgiveness and reconciliation …”
Air Force Times said Gurney’s letter described the two-year sentence as “exceptionally severe” and “particularly difficult financially for his loved ones.”
The former top enlisted man said “every affair was consensual” with “no aggravated offenses, no coercion, no threats, no promises, no misuse of position, no expectations …”
He said the severity of the sentence was due to the “high profile nature of the trial.” He also charged that the “Air Force turned it into the crime of the century.”
There was no indication when the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals will hear the case.