US airman jailed for raping autistic 12-year-old girl while based in UK

A US airman has been jailed for more than six years for raping a 12-year-old autistic girl while stationed in the UK after arranging a meeting via social media.

Dennis Rocha, 18, engaged the victim in sexual conversations using Snapchat before driving 140 miles from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, where he was based, to meet up with her in Wiltshire in April this year.

The 18-year-old collected the girl from her home and took her to a secluded spot, where they had intercourse in his car.

Swindon Crown Court was today told the sexual activity was consensual and no force was used.

Chris Smyth, prosecuting, said that during the encounter, which lasted approximately one hour, the pair had intercourse multiple times, and on one occasion, the condom slipped off.

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In a statement provided to the police at the time, the girl said: “I’m worried I might be pregnant and I won’t find out until next week.”

She also said she was feeling angry with herself and regrets it, and said that she’s sorry it affected others – including her mother, who she said wanted her to be older and in love when she lost her virginity.

In her own statement, the girl’s mother said that her daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was just four years old – and to this day struggles to cope.

She said her daughter has difficulties with communication, will not speak to strangers, cannot make eye contact, does not socialise with friends and cannot deal with mainstream education.

The Californian US Air Force airman was described as a “kind-hearted and gentle young man” in several character references provided to the court, according to defence barrister Sam Jones.

He said: “It was only when he returned to base did the reality of what he had done sink in.”

He added that Rocha was “genuinely remorseful for his actions” and told Judge James Townsend the fact his victim was consenting to the sexual activity was of “some significance”.

Mr Jones asked the court to take into account his client’s youth, inexperience, naivety and lack of maturity – coupled with his own sexual inexperience and the loneliness of being away from home.

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Addressing the court on a video link from Bullingdon Prison, Rocha said: “First off I just want to apologise to the family and anyone else I have hurt because of this incident.

“I wish this never happened…and I am so sorry, I hope you can forgive me and have mercy upon me.”

Sentencing Rocha for two counts of rape of a child aged under 13, Judge Townsend jailed him for six years and eight months – and imposed a one-year licence extension period.

He said: “You had ample opportunity to think twice about what you were doing but you persisted.

“You knew that she was far younger than you and obviously vulnerable.

“The fact she agreed to what was happening is no mitigation due to her age.”

The defendant was also slapped with an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and must sign the sex offenders’ register on release.

He was also placed on the DBS barred list.

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