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Mar-a-Lago Army officer lied during child porn investigation

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A military officer who had been in charge of the U.S. Army's White House communications at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club received probation Friday for lying to federal agents during a child pornography investigation.

Staff Sgt. Richard Ciccarella tearfully apologized to a federal judge for posting photos on a Russian website of an underage girl who was wearing only underwear, The Palm Beach Post reported . One of the photos had a title urging users to submit "dirty" responses, according to court records.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Schiller said the photos didn't constitute child pornography, but Ciccarella lied to investigators about posting the photos.

"Here the lie and the obstruction was to cover up an email address to cover up a much bigger investigation that was going on," Schiller said.

Ciccarella, a 34-year-old who is now stationed in Virginia, said he lied because he was afraid.

"I will forever regret my actions," he said.

Ciccarella pleaded guilty in July to making a false statement to a federal agent. He was sentenced to three years of probation and is required to receive treatment as a sex offender and prohibited from having any unsupervised contact with minors. He must also complete 100 hours of community service.

Schiller had asked U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks to send Ciccarella to jail for as long as six months.

Ciccarella led the Army's communication detail for Trump's exclusive Palm Beach club from August 2017 to March 2018. He uploaded the photos to the Russian website from November 2017 to February 2018, according to court documents.

Prior to being stationed at Mar-a-Lago, Ciccarella had done two tours in Iraq and had worked for about five years in the White House, where he helped operate the switchboard as he placed calls for the president and vice president.

Ciccarella's superiors have said he could be court martialed, said his defense attorney Michael Salnick.

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Information from: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, http://www.pbpost.com