An Army sergeant who recorded herself sexually assaulting her 3-year-old son has been sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Kimberly Epperson, 25, stationed at Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas, at the time, sent photos and videos of the child to then-Army Sgt. Wade Perkins via text message and e-mail using her phone, according to court papers. Perkins, 26, was her boyfriend at the time.
STORY: Mother sues Army in child sex-abuse case
STORY: Child abuse, troop deployment linked
Epperson was sentenced Friday after she pleaded guilty Sept. 20 to federal felony production of child pornography.
Chief Judge Fred Biery of U.S. District Court in San Antonio told Epperson moments before her sentencing that her assaults on her son had effectively "sentenced him to life," adding he would have 70 years or more to remember and relive the abuses, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
"Instead of doing what you should have done (as a mother), you provide this sacrificial lamb of your son," Biery said. "Because of your own needs, you were willing to make a sacrifice of your son."
In October, Biery sentenced Perkins to 30 years for his role in the assaults after Perkins pleaded guilty to production of child pornography.
Perkins of Dallas, Ore., was reduced in rank from sergeant to private and discharged in November, according to the Army. He was a geospatial intelligence imagery analyst, most recently with 306th Military Intelligence Battalion, and he had deployed to Iraq in 2006 and in 2009.
Epperson of Garland, Texas, was a signals intelligence analyst, most recently with the 401st Military Intelligence Company, according to the Army. She had no overseas deployments.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Thompson told the court that the pair "used this little boy multiple times" over an eight-week period and asked the judge for the maximum sentence for Epperson, the Express-News reported.
"She holds the keys to this little boy's safety, and she failed him. And for that she should be punished."
- Tracy Thompson, assistant U.S. attorney
Defense lawyer Joseph Esparza, arguing that Perkins manipulated his client and coerced her into allowing the assaults to take place, reportedly asked for leniency and a 15-year sentence.
According to an FBI affidavit, Epperson told agents she became involved with Perkins in February 2011 and that Perkins asked her include the child in their sexual interactions.
Months later, Perkins molested the child on multiple occasions in Epperson's home, the affidavit states.
Epperson also sent Perkins pornographic images and videos of the boy at Perkins' request while Perkins was traveling. Perkins instructed Epperson on what poses and types of sex acts he desired to be produced and sent, according to the affidavit.
Perkins confirmed he directed Epperson to produce the child pornography and "advised that he is an excellent 'manipulator' and receives pleasure from such activities," the affidavit states.
During the investigation, the child said Epperson and the "bad man" - whom agents confirmed as Perkins - had sexually abused him.
The investigation began in August 2012 after Epperson, pregnant with Perkins' daughter, went to an adoption agency to give up the child, citing her fear that he would abuse her daughter as he had her son, the Express-News reported.
During FBI Special Agent Jeff Allovio's testimony about the investigation, defense attorney Esparza asked Allovio whether he thought Epperson got pleasure from the assaults on her son.
"Certainly not the same way Wade Perkins did," he said. "He was the driving force behind this."
The prosecutor agreed in court that Perkins, not Epperson, was the initiator.
"This isn't who she is. It wasn't her idea," Thompson said. "He found her, and he used her, and he easily manipulated her to get to her son. ... But she holds the keys to this little boy's safety, and she failed him. And for that she should be punished."
Army Times via USA Today