FORT CARSON, COLO. — A Fort Carson soldier has been sentenced to 10 years of confinement and given a dishonorable discharge after pleading guilty to engaging in sexual acts with a 13-year-old girl.
Spc. Richard A. Sheltra, 23, was sentenced Tuesday, a day after entering his pleas to four charges during his court-martial on post, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.
The charges included having sex with the victim and engaging in sexual acts with her on multiple occasions, as well as sending lewd images to her.
It was the latest in a string of sexual misconduct cases at Fort Carson.
Sheltra apologized but said he and the girl were in love and their acts were consensual.
“I know what I did was wrong. I know I need to be punished,” Sheltra told a seven-member panel of soldiers in a statement during the sentencing portion of his trial. “We cared about each other very much. I’d even say I was in love with her.”
Another Fort Carson soldier was convicted in June of similar charges and sentenced to six years of confinement.
Government lawyers had asked the panel to sentence Sheltra to at least 17 years of confinement and issue a dishonorable discharge.
“It’s not the most aggravating case,” Maj. Jonathan Lambert, a lawyer with the prosecution, told the panel. “What it is, is the case of a soldier, someone years removed from high school, taking advantage of a girl years removed from elementary school.”
A forensic investigation of Sheltra’s computer uncovered a folder titled “lil slut” on his computer with naked pictures of the girl, Lambert said.
“Does Spc. Sheltra love the victim, or is he just trying to use her?” Lambert told the panel. “The strong prey on the weak, and that’s exactly what Spc. Sheltra did.”
Sheltra was an M1 armor crewman with the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team.