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Navy petty officer sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for sexually abusing a minor

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Navy Petty Officer Chazzman Chung was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Hartford to 18 months in federal prison, followed by five years of strict supervised release, for having a sexual relationship with a middle school student he had met on the internet.

Chung, 28, a native of Hawaii, was stationed at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton when he met a 13-year-old using the Grindr social media app for adult men, according to court documents and testimony. Leading up to his sentencing, he was still active in the Navy as a petty officer second class, working as a cryptologic technician who installs intelligence gear in submarines.

Though the teen told Chung he was 14, Chung picked him up on Dec. 19, 2018, took him back to the submarine base and engaged in sex with him in Chung's barracks room.  The boy had feigned illness and stayed home from school. His mother contacted state police after finding sexually explicit messages between him and a person listed as "Chazz." Chung admitted to the crime under questioning by state police.

Chung was charged with sexual abuse of a minor in October 2019 and pleaded guilty in February 2020, according to court records.

Judge Michael P. Shea said he would be recommending that Chazzman be incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center at Fort Devens, Mass., which provides treatment to inmates with mental health issues. Shea said he was delaying Chazzman's surrender date by 90 days due to the amount of COVID-19 among inmates at some facilities within the federal prison system.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Chung, who had no previous criminal record, faced 18 to 24 months in prison when he appeared before the judge in civilian clothing and a face mask Monday morning.

His federal public defender, Tracy M. Hayes, argued for a sentence at the bottom of the range, noting Chung had taken full responsibility for the crime, engaged in counseling and written a sincere letter of apology. In a sentencing memorandum, Hayes had described a difficult childhood in which Chung himself was the victim of crimes.

According to a sentencing memorandum written by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy V. Gifford, the mother of the victim reported the teen has struggled with psychiatric issues.

At the sentencing hearing, which was accessible via Zoom video conference, Gifford pointed out that although there was no force alleged, and Chung had been charged with statutory rape based on the age of the child, "there's a big difference between a 27-year-old and a 13-year-old." She wrote in her sentencing memorandum that the appropriate thing for Chung to have done would have been to counsel the boy on the inappropriateness of being on the adult internet application.

Chung apologized to the victim and the victim's mother and said he hates himself for what he did.

"I just want to take responsibility for what I've done and pay penance," said Chung. "That's really who my father raised me to be. You make a mistake, you take responsibility, and you don't do it again."

Judge Shea told Chung he didn't appear to be the typical sex offender, that he had shown empathy to the victim in a letter to the court and there was no evidence he had "overcome the victim's will." The judge said a prison sentence was warranted based on the lasting harm this type of offense causes someone of this age and general deterrence.

"This is not a short sentence," Shea said. "It's a significant sentence, but as sex offenders go, it's a relatively short sentence. You're a young guy. You're a bright guy. You have a life to live. You have people to care about you. You can get through this."

The judge imposed sex offender treatment as a condition of probation and said any device Chung owns or controls will be equipped with monitoring software to detect whether he is in contact with minors. He ordered Chung to have no unsupervised contact with minors under the age of 18.

State authorities will determine whether Chung has to register as a sexual offender, according to testimony.

k.florin@theday.com

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