A soldier who was absent without leave for six years after producing child pornography was caught this spring and sentenced to 11 years confinement and a dishonorable discharge by a general court-martial on Oct. 23, Fort Bragg officials confirmed Tuesday.
Spc. Robert L. Barnett III, who was previously assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, was also reduced in grade from E-4 to E-1. The 35-year-old was found guilty by a military judge of desertion, as well as producing and viewing child pornography.
Barnett was caught engaging in lewd web camera exchanges with numerous female minors between February and October 2012, according to a statement from the 82nd Airborne Division.
He then deserted his unit and fled along with his wife and children to the United Kingdom on Oct. 16, 2013, the division’s public affairs office said.
Barnett remained at large for the next six years, and was listed as “armed and dangerous” on an Army Office of the Provost Marshal General web page.
He was ultimately arrested on May 31 this year and held in a jail in Barnstaple, southwest England, before being transferred to U.S. military custody.
An Air Force Office of Special Investigations release states that Barnett was originally caught during an FBI Internet Crime Against Children sting.
During his time in England, he had been arrested by U.K. authorities for other charges on multiple occasions and had attempted to evade capture in multiple ways over the last two weeks of May, before local police were able to detain the AWOL paratrooper.
On June 1, evidence in the case was presented to the Barnstaple Magistrate, permitting them to transfer Barnett into the custody of U.S. authorities.
The local Air Force OSI detachment said in a statement that the arrest took nearly two years of coordination among numerous international law enforcement agencies.
“Besides taking a child predator off the streets and enabling the capture of an Army’s most wanted fugitive, this was a big liaison win for Det. 541,” wrote Col. Shan B. Nuckols, the regional Air Force OSI commander.
Barnett was reportedly ordered by Army officials to be placed in confinement at Royal Air Force Lakenheath and later flown directly to Pope Army Airfield, which is connected to Fort Bragg, via a C-17 transport under military police escort.
The 82nd Airborne Division commander, Maj. Gen. James Mingus, praised his team’s “perseverance” in the division statement, as well as the multinational and interagency support that led to Barnett’s capture.
Before his desertion, Barnett served for approximately one year as an infantryman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
He was also previously enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.