Wade Sanders (R) along with his attorney Knut Johnson, walks into federal court in downtown San Diego, May 4, 2009.
A former high-ranking Pentagon official has been sentenced to prison on child-porn charges.
Wade Sanders, 68, a deputy assistant secretary of the Navy during the Clinton Administration, claimed he downloaded the images while researching a writing project on the sexual exploitation of children.
On Monday in San Diego, Sanders was sentenced to 37 months behind bars, after pleading guilty in connection to the case in December. He had faced as much as 10 years in prison.
Sander's psychological therapist told the court that his patient has an obsessive-compulsive syndrome owing to post-traumatic stress disorder but that he was not a pedophile.
Sanders told the judge it was the hardest moment of his life, that Vietnam was "a walk in the park" compared to his legal troubles -- and that he takes responsibility for his actions, saying he is "so, so sorry for others" who trusted and admired him.... In many ways, I'm almost a dead man."
According to court records Sanders, a San Diego native, admitted that on or around May 2, 2008, he had a computer which he knew contained more than 600 images of minors, including a 21-minute video. In the video, several prepubescent girls were engaged in sexual conduct with an adult male and performing oral sex on one another, according to U.S. Attorney Karen P. Hewitt.
Sanders is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War and was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He most recently served as California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi's senior adviser on veterans affairs before being arrested by FBI agents last year.
Prosecutors were seeking a 63-month sentence, saying Sanders led a double life.
Ninety of Sanders' friends wrote letters of support for leniency, including U.S. Senator and former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a fellow Swift Boat commander in Vietnam. Sanders played a high-profile role in Kerry's 2004 campaign and was called on stage during the party's national convention.
Over the years, Sanders had become familiar as a military and political analyst for both the broadcast and print media.