LOS ANGELES – An Air Force officer who served on the president's security detail faces a possible court-martial in Texas for encouraging service members to send him photos of their genitals from locations around the world and rewarding contributions with commemorative T-shirts, patches and coins.
2nd Lt. Travis Burch was charged earlier this month at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, with conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
The photos included 84 people, including 58 active military and 10 former members among the civilians, according to an investigation file obtained by The Associated Press. Most members were in the Air Force, though the group included one U.S. Marine and one current and one former U.S. Navy sailor.
The group started in 2012 "was comprised of members who when going someplace deemed 'cool' or coming up with a 'funny' idea would take a picture of their penis with something related to the location or object in the picture," a summary of the investigation said.
Defense lawyer Jeremiah J. Sullivan III said no crime was committed and the case was built around what was done privately in a "jovial, joking spirit" among consenting adults.
"The Air Force has spent well over a year investigating this case all over the globe," Sullivan said. "This was a completely private group that is now embarrassed by Air Force investigators. They're now being publicly shamed for lawfully and voluntarily sharing their penis pictures. It's a private matter."
The partly censored investigation document said Burch told someone not identified that he took his final suggestive selfie at the vice president's residence while assigned to the security detail.
Sullivan confirmed Burch was part of the presidential security detail while stationed at Andrews Air Force Base from 2014 to 2016, but said no such photo was shot at the house then occupied by Vice President Joe Biden.
"There were never photos taken at the White House or the vice president's house," he said. "We know that for a fact."
One of the charges alleges Burch threatened to share a photo of one member touching Burch's penis if the man didn't send more images.
Sullivan rejected that charge and said all the photos were taken consensually and no one was threatened.
Burch kept images and videos on an external hard drive found by investigators in a hollowed-out book in his quarters. They also found coins and other prizes that were awarded for completing a series of different poses and other acts.
The Air Force acknowledged the misconduct charges, but declined to comment further. Burch faces a hearing to determine if he should be tried by court-martial for any of three counts, including an allegation that he solicited other service members to commit indecent conduct that brought discredit to the armed forces.
It was not immediately clear what kind of penalty he could face.
Sullivan said an administrative hearing would be more appropriate.
Last year, the Navy internally disciplined two pilots who used the contrail behind their fighter jet to draw a penis in the sky over rural Washington. That incident became widely publicized after photos were posted on social media.