A decorated Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will spend 27 years in prison after admitting he sexually abused a 5-year-old family member.
Gregory Kyle Seerden, 32, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, to nearly the maximum 30-year sentence for his crime.
"Gregory Seerden victimized a child," Tracy Doherty-McCormick said in her first public statement since becoming acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "As this prosecution makes clear, the United States will seek to hold accountable anyone who sexually exploits our most vulnerable citizens."
Seerden was stationed in San Diego but was staying with family in Virginia for the holidays last January when he was accused by a woman he knows of sexually assaulting her after a night out drinking and socializing on a Virginia Beach naval base.
When Navy investigators searched Seerden's phone, they found child pornography, according to court papers. A deeper forensic investigation uncovered more child porn and four videos in which Seerden himself sexually abused a 5-year-old child while she slept.
Those videos were taken the night before the alleged assault, he later admitted, while he was sleeping in the same room as his victim.
Seerden is now also charged in San Diego with sexually abusing another family member in 2014, when she was 7. That allegation was investigated by the Navy at the time but dropped because the child's mother was reluctant to pursue charges, according to prosecutors.
But the case was reopened after his arrest last year.
In court filings, public defender Keith Kimball said Seerden was abused in his childhood and suffered injuries in combat.
"After some rough times in his adolescent period, Kyle enlisted in the Navy. When he came back from Afghanistan he was hurting inside but still trying to be himself," his mother Jennifer Seerden wrote in a letter to the court. "Some of his friends were lost and others severely injured and it seemed to really impact him. However, it was his experience in Iraq that I believe really changed him."
In addition to his sentence, Seerden will pay a $10,000 fine and serve 25 years of supervised release.
Author information: Rachel Weiner covers federal court in Alexandria for The Washington Post.