A pair of federal stings sparked the criminal convictions of two Navy sailors in Hawaii, and a third petty officer is awaiting an early 2019 court-martial trial.
One late 2016 operation was run by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Florida and the other 2017 sting by undercover Air Force Office of Special Investigations agents in Hawaii, according to military court documents provided to Navy Times.
Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Gene Axe III, an Aegis fire controlman stationed aboard the guided-missile destroyer Preble, was found guilty by a military jury on Sept. 13 for attempted sexual assault of a child and was sentenced to five years confinement, reduction to the lowest enlisted rating, total forfeitures and a dishonorable discharge.
On Sept. 22, 2017, he drove to meet a person on Oahu he thought was a girl between the ages of 12 and 16 years who actually as an OSI undercover agent. He had arranged to penetrate her vulva, anus and mouth, according to his charge sheet.
For two days before Axe’s intended rendezvous, he’d told the agent that he wanted to engage in “hardcore sex that would make the girls downtown jealous,” using graphic language that involved hard and sadistic sex acts he called “all fun things," according to the court documents.
Military records released to Navy Times showed that Axe enlisted in the Navy in 2005 and had served aboard the destroyer Gridley and cruisers Lake Champlain and Choisin before joining the crew of the Preble on July 5, 2016.
The Pennsylvania native was referred to a general court-martial on May 4, 2018, according to his charge sheet.
On Aug. 20, Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Geoffrey Reese Mills pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and lying to NCIS agents in Florida and was sentenced by a military judge in Hawaii to 18 months confinement, reduction to the lowest enlisted rating and a dishonorable discharge.
On Dec. 3, 2016, while he was assigned temporarily to Special Projects Patrol Squadron 2 — an elite reconnaissance unit whose operations are shrouded in secrecy — Mills was caught near Jacksonville with digital images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, according to his charge sheet.
Interrogated by NCIS agents two days later, Mills made an official statement that he didn’t have a personal computer with him while in Jacksonville, “which ... was totally false” and was known by him to be false, his charge sheet states.
Military records released to Navy Times showed that Mills enlisted in 2007. Before joining the Hawaii-based “Wizards” of VPU-2 on July 7, 2015, the Ohio native had served at the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast in Jacksonville and a string of special schools.
A third sailor — Culinary Specialist 1st Class Joseph Lee Hunter of the Transient Personnel Unit at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam — awaits a general court-martial trial scheduled to begin on Jan. 28 in Hawaii.
Prosecutors accuse him of attempting on July 10, 2017, to arrange a sexual meeting on Oahu with a person he believed was a child under the age of 16. Instead, the child was an undercover OSI agent.
Earlier that day, Hunter not only allegedly requested the agent to perform a sexual act on him, but also to “put my hand over my mouth” to “make sure I don’t make a lot of noise," according to his charge sheet.
Hunter also allegedly called himself a “freak” and asked what kind of panties she wore, the charge sheet states.
Hunter’s military trial counsel declined comment through Navy Region Hawaii officials.
“The Navy takes all criminal allegations seriously, and when these allegations are found to be true, sailors will be held accountable for their actions," said Agnes T. Tauyan, the director of public affairs for Navy Region Hawaii, in a written statement emailed to Navy Times.
Military records released to Navy Times show that Hunter enlisted in the Navy in 2002.
Originally from North Carolina, he served aboard the frigate Vandegrift, the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and the destroyer Fitzgerald before being assigned to his Hawaii unit on Aug. 1, 2016.
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.