The crude home video shows a T-shirt-clad Air Force Capt. Kent Hornsby looking into the camera lens as he sets the camera in place in a bathroom.
The toilet flushes, and he turns away from the camera and walks out the door.
“Sorry,” he says to a pony-tailed teenager in a black slip who walks in as he is leaving. The girl brushes her teeth and washes in front of a mirror for a few minutes while singing along with the “Dirty Dancing” tune “(I've Had) The Time of My Life.”
That video, played Tuesday in a courtroom at Offutt Air Force Base, could cost Hornsby his career and land him in a military prison. He is being court-martialed this week on a charge of “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”
Prosecutors said that Hornsby, a 29-year-old officer at the Offutt-based Air Force Weather Agency, set up the camera at a home in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 25, 2010, during a Thanksgiving celebration. They said his intent was to record indecent pictures of the girl, who had said moments earlier that she planned to take a shower.
“You'll be able to see what the accused did in that bathroom,” 1st Lt. Allen Tate, the co-prosecutor, told the court-martial panel of three male and two female officers.
In his brief opening statement, defense counsel Capt. Bradley Palmer advised the panel members to reserve judgment until they have seen all the evidence.
“The central issue is going to be intent: whether Capt. Kent Hornsby intended to videotape (the girl),” Palmer said. “Appearances are not always what they seem.”
The court-martial comes as the military — in particular, the Air Force — is dealing with a plague of sexual misconduct.
In Fort Bragg, N.C., court proceedings continue this week in the case of an Army brigadier general who is charged with sexually assaulting a junior officer.
Earlier this month, an Air Force recruiter in Texas was sentenced to 27 years in prison for raping and sodomizing 18 women he had tried to recruit. And Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin is under fire for reversing the court-martial conviction of an F-16 pilot for sexual assaulting a houseguest.
Last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a series of measures aimed at preventing sexual abuse in the armed forces.
On Monday, U.S. military forces worldwide held a daylong “stand-down” to focus the attention of its active-duty and civilian forces on the problem.
Several members of Hornsby's court-martial panel testified that they had attended educational programs Monday about sexual harassment, and at least one had conducted a class.
Hornsby's lawyers questioned the 12 would-be jurors as to whether they could decide the case on the evidence alone, despite the heightened sensitivity in the Air Force about sexual misconduct.
Once the jury panel was seated, Hornsby's wife, Abbey Reif-Hornsby, took the stand to describe the aftermath of the Thanksgiving video incident. She said the girl heard a shutter click in the bathroom and found a small Canon camera hidden in a box. The girl stormed into a room and threw the camera at Hornsby's feet.
Reif-Hornsby, 30, said her husband grabbed the camera and took it upstairs. She followed him and found him watching the video. She grabbed the video and kept it.
“I was sort of in a state of shock,” Reif-Hornsby said.
She gave the video to her mother, who transferred it to a computer thumb drive. Reif-Hornsby did nothing with the video until May 2012, 18 months after it was recorded. A lawyer she consulted, after finding evidence of her husband's infidelity, advised her to turn over the thumb drive to military authorities, she said.
The couple are now in the final stages of divorce, she added.
Reif-Hornsby's testimony was interrupted when the court reporter became ill. After a 90-minute recess, the court-martial was adjourned for the day. Court officials said they would decide today whether the proceedings could continue.
When the trial does resume, the girl is expected to testify.
General court-martial proceedings resemble civilian felony trials, but there are important differences. They are convened for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a separate set of laws that govern members of the armed forces.
In civilian court, jurors must reach a unanimous verdict. In a court-martial, the jury panel is made up of service members who are higher in rank than the accused, and two-thirds of them must agree on the verdict.
A convicted defendant may be sentenced to a military prison and forced to forfeit pay, and may be dismissed or discharged from the military. But the court-martial convening authority — in most cases, a senior member of the defendant's chain of command — may reduce or even set aside the sentence.