Senior Airman Kyle J. Dalton, middle, meets with defense counsel Capt. Michael D. Carson, left, and Jason S. Robertson, right, upon entering the courtroom on April 23 for his court-martial at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia. Dalton is accused of killing Senior Airman Carl J. Ware, Jr. at Camp Bucca, Iraq, July 1, 2006. (Stephanie Oberlander)
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In this undated photo provided by the Ware family, Senior Airman Carl J. Ware Jr. is seen with his daughter Caitlyn Melissa. (The Associated Press)
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. — Senior Airman Kyle Dalton was handed a 10-year prison sentence Tuesday for the July 1, 2006, shooting death of Senior Airman Carl Ware while both were deployed to Camp Bucca in Iraq.
In addition to the 10-year sentence, Dalton will receive a dishonorable discharge, a forfeit of pay and a reduction in rank to airman basic.
Judge Col. Thomas Cumbie delivered the sentence late Tuesday afternoon, after hearing nearly two days of pleas for leniency from Dalton's parents and others, as well as stories from Ware's family and fellow airmen about how Ware's loss had changed their lives and left them angry.
The maximum prison term Dalton could have received was 12 years.
Dalton, of Claremont, N.H., had faced life in prison. However on Monday he pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter by culpable negligence in exchange for prosecutors dropping the murder charge and an assault charge from an earlier incident at Camp Bucca that involved Dalton pointing an M4 rifle at an airman.
Dalton admitted to pointing a 9 mm handgun at Ware as both airmen stood in their Camp Bucca barracks and pulling the trigger. The single bullet struck Ware's upper right chest and pierced his lungs and heart before exiting out his back. He died within minutes, an autopsy concluded.
Dalton testified Monday that he didn't know there was a magazine in the handgun or that that there was bullet in the gun's chamber.
The two airmen had both deployed to Iraq from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, where they were assigned to the 15th Security Forces Squadron.
Outside the courtroom, Ware's widow and the mother of their two small children, Christine Ware of Glassboro, N.J., said she had hoped for a more severe punishment. "We are unhappy with it," Ware said, speaking for herself and several of the Wares' Air Force friends who attended the court-martial. "Our daughters will still be elementary school when he is released."
Earlier Tuesday, Christine Ware testified how she and Carl Ware had been high school sweethearts in Glassboro. The two met on a blind date in June 1999. Christine joined the Air Force first and landed an assignment working in Hickam's command post. While she was home on leave in October 2002, Carl proposed. "He said, ‘I'm going to put a ring on your finger.'" Carl Ware followed Christine back to Hawaii and the two were married on the beach in January 2003.
"We were so happy," Christine Ware said. "We were finally going to get to live the rest of our lives."
In February 2004, Carl Ware enlisted with the Air Force and several months later returned as security forces member assigned to Hickam. Their first daughter, Caitlyn, was born in July 2005. Two weeks before, Carl Ware deployed for Iraq. In 2006, the couple learned Christine was pregnant with their second child.
When the couple discussed their future, Carl Ware talked about staying in the Air Force and becoming a canine handler, while Christine Ware would go to college and become a teacher. In 2010, they would take the kids to Disney World.
"We had planned this wonderful life," Christine Ware told Cumbie from the witness stand. "We'd sit on the beach and talk about our children in college."
Following Cumbie's decision and after a long embrace with his parents, Dalton was taken into custody by Air Force security forces members and driven from the Langley legal building to begin his sentence. Most military prisoners serving lengthy terms are incarcerated at the military's U.S. Disciplinary Barracks on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
The pronouncement of Dalton's sentence touched off an automatic review process. The sentence and guilty pleas will be reviewed by Lt. Gen. Gary North, the commander of most airmen assigned to Iraq, an Air Force spokesman said. North can reduce the sentence, but he can not increase the punishment. The sentence can also be appealed up the military court system.