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CHEYENNE - A former U.S. Air Force lieutenant sentenced last year to serve 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to receipt and possession of child pornography has asked a federal judge to vacate his convictions.

Harold Henderson Jr. filed papers in federal court this week claiming that U.S. Judge William F. Downes of Casper, federal prosecutors and his own defense lawyer all incorrectly told him he faced a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted at trial.

Faced with that prospect, Henderson pleaded guilty in late 2006 in a plea agreement with prosecutors. The agreement called for prosecutors to recommend he receive no more than 12 years.

Downes in January 2007 gave Henderson that 12-year prison sentence, recommending that he serve his time at the lowest security-level facility possible.

In asking Downes to vacate his conviction this week, Henderson states the actual minimum sentence he faced if convicted at trial was only five years in prison.

Henderson, a former Air Force lieutenant, had been stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne. Prosecutors charged that investigators found child pornography on his computer at his residence off the base.

Airman 1st Class Alex Martinez, at the F.E. Warren public affairs office, said Friday that Henderson is no longer in the Air Force.

Five enlisted personnel assigned to F.E. Warren were charged with child pornography offenses at about the same time as Henderson.

Henderson filed a declaration in court this week saying that when his defense lawyer presented him with the terms of the plea agreement in the middle of trial, "he told me that if I continued with the trial and lost, I would receive a minimum sentence of 15 years."

"He told me that this sentence was mandatory, and that there was no ability to receive less than 15 years," Henderson said. "The judge also told me the same thing."

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Later in the declaration, Henderson states, "But for my trial attorney's terrible mistake in giving me the wrong information, I would have continued my trial. Even if I had lost, knowing I was facing a minimum of five years was totally different than facing a minimum of 15 years!"

Cheyenne lawyer Ronald Pretty represented Henderson at his plea agreement and at sentencing, court records said. An attempt to reach Pretty for comment Friday was unsuccessful. His office said he was not available.

John Robinson, a Casper lawyer, represents Henderson in his attempt to get his convictions vacated. Robinson also was not available for comment Friday, his office said.

John Barksdale, assistant U.S. Attorney, declined comment on the matter. He said his office routinely declines comment on pending cases.

Downes this week gave the federal government 20 days to respond to Henderson's request.

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