Airman enters guilty plea; breaks down

By Darrell Todd Maurina

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — Airman Basic Anthony E. Thompson, a member of the Air Force’s equivalent to a civilian police department, said he enlisted to serve his country following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
However, in a court-martial Thursday afternoon, he admitted that within two years he was not only using drugs but also providing them to other airmen.
Thompson, 25, pleaded guilty to wrongful use of cocaine, marijuana and heroin and received a bad conduct discharge and 12 months confinement. Prosecutors did not request fines or forfeiture of pay from Thompson.
In a plea agreement, Thompson will testify against other airmen with whom he said he used drugs, and he could receive a lighter sentence in return for his testimony in upcoming cases.
Thompson testified that in June 2003, he used cocaine at a civilian apartment in Portales where two other airmen were present.
Three days later, Thompson was selected for a random urinalysis test that came back positive for drugs.
Thompson admitted to continuing to use cocaine and other drugs after the positive drug test, and also pleaded guilty to new charges brought Thursday morning accusing him of heroin and marijuana use. In October, he said, he traveled to the Mexican city of Juarez, purchased one gram of heroin from a Mexican cab driver for $80, and used it by heating the heroin and smoking the fumes.
Thompson’s pregnant wife Victoria, a 911 dispatcher in El Paso and member of the Texas National Guard, asked the judge, Lt. Col. Kurt Schuman, to consider her family situation.
“He’s been a very good person despite his problems,” she said. “He’s been very supportive, very patient, very understanding.”
Thompson broke down in tears while asking for leniency.
“I apologize to the court, my unit, the United States Air Force, and especially my wife Veronica,” he said. “While it has taken me far too long, I have come to realize I have a substance abuse problem and I hope I can receive substance abuse counseling in confinement.”
Military prosecutor Capt. Paolino Calliendo argued against a defense request for three to four months confinement.
“If Airman Thompson leaves this courtroom without handcuffs around his wrists, what kind of message will we be sending to other young men and women who are considering joining the Air Force?” Calliendo asked the judge.
“The defense wants you to feel bad about Airman Thompson’s family, but he should have thought twice before he went down to Mexico. Make no mistake, the news about Airman Thompson’s sentence will spread like wildfire all over the base and through the Clovis News Journal.”
After sentencing him to the maximum possible prison term, Schuman urged Thompson to seek help.
“One of the things I personally think should be done by you is getting some counseling for your substance abuse problem,” Schuman said.