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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK
US airman jailed over triple rape
Staff Sgt James Gardner
Gardner had claimed the teenagers consented to sex
A US airman, who had been described as a credit to his country's military, has been jailed for 12 years for raping three "vulnerable" teenage girls.

Staff Sgt James Gardner, 34, got the 14, 15 and 17-year-olds drunk before the assaults, York Crown Court heard.

He took advantage of the girls, who all lived in a North Yorkshire children's home, while serving at the US base at RAF Menwith Hill, near Harrogate.

He had denied five counts of rape, but was found guilty by a jury last month.

Gardner was also found guilty of two counts of sexual assault and another of attempted rape, following the trial in York.

You were motivated by lust and you set about getting them drunk and then raping them when they were powerless to say yea or nay
Judge Paul Hoffman

He had claimed the teenagers consented to sex with him at his Harrogate flat.

Judge Paul Hoffman made reference to Gardner's exemplary air force career, saying he was "a credit to them".

But the judge went on: "You have lost all that, I'm afraid, by these convictions.

"You took advantage of these young girls. You knew them to be vulnerable, they lived in a children's home.

"You were motivated by lust and you set about getting them drunk and then raping them when they were powerless to say yea or nay.

"The aggravating features here are the number of girls involved and the fact that they were young."

Deported after release

Judge Hoffman said Gardner did not fit the criteria to be classified as dangerous under the provisions of recent legislation, which would have meant him being given an indeterminate sentence.

But the judge did order Gardner to be put on the sex offenders register for life and to be deported after his release from prison, which he said would probably be after serving half the 12 years.

The judge ordered separate sentences of four years and six years respectively for the two sexual assaults to run concurrently with the 12 years for the five rapes and the attempted rape.


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