LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska Court of Appeals panel has ordered that a former Air Force master sergeant, who got some jail time and probation for attempted child sexual assault, be resentenced to prison.
A majority of the panel found that a Sarpy County district judge was too lenient when she sentenced 42-year-old Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Gibson to six months in county jail and five years' probation in December 2017.
Prosecutors said Gibson, of La Vista, Nebraska, about 10 miles northwest of Offutt Air Force Base, was a 41-year-old airman with 16 years of service when he and a local youth pastor contacted then-18-year-old DeArch Stubblefield early in 2017 and set up sex with the 15-year-old girl. Stubblefield, who had placed an ad on Craigslist, was a star high school football player with no criminal history at the time. He was sentenced last year to 20 to 40 years in prison.
Gibson, who faced up to 50 years in prison, agreed to plead no contest to a reduced charge of attempted first-degree sexual assault of a child, a felony. The Omaha World-Herald reported that the plea agreement was reached to spare the victim from having to testify.
Klint Bitter, 35, the former youth pastor at Christ Community Church in Omaha, was sentenced in May 2018 to 10 to 20 years in prison after also pleading guilty to a reduced charge of attempted first-degree sexual assault. Under Nebraska law, sentences are typically cut in half, meaning Bitter would actually serve five to 10 years.
At Bitter’s sentencing hearing, Deputy Sarpy County Attorney Phil Kleine said Bitter texted Stubblefield following the encounter, the World-Herald reported. “That was hot, bro, let’s do it again,” Kleine said the text read. “How old are you two for real? I just really wish you both were 18.”
At his trial last December, Gibson’s attorney, Donald Schense, asked the court to give his client probation, the World-Herald reported. He noted that his client would go through life as a convicted felon and a registered sex offender and would be drummed out of the Air Force.
“He never shifted blame and never blamed anyone else,” Schense said, according to the World-Herald report. “He is extremely embarrassed, ashamed and remorseful.”
But prosecutors appealed the judge’s decision, saying it was too lenient.
The appeals panel recognized Gibson’s military service and his lack of a prior criminal history, but said “a term of probation depreciates the seriousness of the offense and promotes disrespect of the law.”