Child porn conviction of ex-airman vacated
By Ben Neary - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Mar 5, 2008 7:46:18 EST
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A federal judge has vacated the conviction of a former Air Force lieutenant on charges of receipt and possession of child pornography.
The order signed Wednesday by U.S. District Judge William F. Downes, of Casper, Wyo., opens the way for a new trial for Harold Henderson Jr.
Henderson filed papers in federal court in January stating that Downes, as well as federal prosecutors and his own former defense lawyer, all incorrectly told him in 2006 that he faced a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted at trial.
Henderson pleaded guilty in late 2006 in a plea agreement with prosecutors. In January 2007, Downes sentenced Henderson to 12 years in prison.
In his January request to Downes, Henderson stated that the actual minimum sentence he faced if convicted at trial was only five years in prison.
“But for my trial attorney’s terrible mistake in giving me the wrong information, I would have continued my trial,” Henderson wrote. “Even if I had lost, knowing I was facing a minimum of five years was totally different than facing a minimum of 15 years!”
Casper lawyer John Robinson now represents Henderson.
“The sentence was illegal,” Robinson said Monday of Henderson’s original sentence. “The judge didn’t have any choice. There was an error made by everyone involved the last time he was prosecuted.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne prosecuted Henderson. The office did not oppose Henderson’s request that the judge vacate his conviction and prison sentence. The office has declined comment on his case.
Downes ordered the U.S. Marshals Service last week to bring Henderson back to Cheyenne. Robinson said his client has been serving time in a federal prison in Texas.
Robinson said the judge will hold a hearing on whether Henderson should be released from prison pending another prosecution on the child pornography charges.
“There’s another matter that needs to be addressed before we even get to that stage, and that is whether the search warrant that was used to seize his computer was even valid,” Robinson said. He said Henderson intends to ask the judge to suppress evidence against him.
Henderson, a former Air Force lieutenant, was stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne. Court documents charged that investigators found child pornography on his computer at his residence off the base.
A base spokesman said recently that Henderson is no longer in the Air Force. Five enlisted personnel assigned to F.E. Warren were charged with child pornography offenses at about the same time as Henderson.