Lt. Daniel Chase Harris was a seemingly all-American “Top Gun” instructor stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana. His father was also a Navy pilot, and his grandfather was a two-star admiral. His family dog was named “Maverick.” He had stellar reports. A reviewing officer of Harris’ from the Navy gave him an outstanding recommendation writing, “PROMOTE AND SELECT NOW!” Daniel Harris maintained a clean record his entire life, void of even a single parking ticket. Harris fathered two children with a loving wife by his side.
Retired Cmdr. Steve Harris, Daniel’s father, said Daniel was a dream son “up until the verdict was reached.” That verdict handed to Harris by U.S. District Court Judge Mark Davis found the naval pilot guilty of some very dark crimes against teen girls. Judge Davis said that Daniel Harris “sadistically tormented,” “manipulated,” and “blackmailed” nine teenaged victims. The youngest victim was a mere 12-years-old.
— Lansing StateJournal (@LSJNews) July 27, 2015
Harris, as it turned out, wasn’t the honorable pilot his naval officers believed he was. He wasn’t the devoted husband his wife believed he was. And he was certainly not the hero his children could look up to, according to the victims of his crimes. Daniel Harris spent years pretending to be a teenager online, convincing young, teen girls to send him somewhat private photos. Once they complied, he used the initial suggestive photos to blackmail the teens into sending highly sexual photos and videos. He told them that if they didn’t give him what he wanted, he would send their initial photos to their friends and their family, according to prosecutors.
Harris had over 800 sexually explicit photos and videos of under-aged girls on his computer. Over 45 girls of the 275 contacts he maintained on Skype had been upfront with Harris that they were minors. The prosecutors at Harris’ trial called the naval pilot, “the victimizer and manipulator of hundreds of girls.” This is the same type of manipulation that resulted in teen Amanda Todd’s suicide, and many of Harris’ victims also became suicidal.
Of course, in the beginning of the investigation and even the trial, Daniel was backed by numerous supporters including family members and especially his wife. WZZM 13 reported that Daniel Harris’ supporters sent character letters and testified that he was a “role model with sterling integrity and character; a family man who was selfless and compassionate, caring and trustworthy.”
Then, the prosecution showed the courtroom the evidence against him. A jury found him guilty of “29 counts of production, receipt, transportation, and possession of child pornography” as well as obstruction of justice, and the judge sentenced the former Navy lieutenant to 50 years in prison.
By the time the verdict was read, even his grandmother spoke out against him, stating that he dishonored the U.S. Navy.
During the proceedings, his wife Erin filed for divorce. Though she once supported him and defended him to investigators and the court, by the end, she said, “My observations were not only wrong, but couldn’t be further from the truth,” adding, “In his world, only he matters.”
Judge Davis’ words to Daniel Harris were piercing.
“You essentially raped them. In some ways what you did was worse because you kept coming back to them.”
“This is embarrassing,” one of Harris’ fellow aviators was heard whispering while the prosecution presented closing arguments.
At no point did Harris ever take responsibility for his crimes against the young women whom he tormented for years. Daniel Harris reportedly even offered an inmate’s wife three grand to pose as John Anderson, a fictitious person he created as a scapegoat. Harris said that he would pay the inmate’s wife to send texts to his family and to the victims “admitting” to framing Harris. Harris reportedly ended up handwriting a letter from the fictitious John Anderson himself.
Still, his descent didn’t hit bottom with that bribery. Daniel Harris, once a highly respected member of the U.S. Navy, actually wrote a letter to the Chinese embassy, according to the judge. In the letter, he promised secret military intelligence if they would bust him out of jail. According to WTKR, Harris threatened China that if the Chinese government wouldn’t help, he would offer the same military secrets to the Russians.
“My country, that I have faithfully served since 2001, found me guilty of 31 felonies that I did not commit,” Harris wrote in the letter to the Chinese embassy, according to Navy Times. “And to make it worse they took my wife and children from me. So if they no longer believe in me, then I no longer believe in them.”
“To seek to betray your country for your own personal good is hard for me to process,” the judge commented on the attempted treasonous offer.
Though Daniel Harris never apologized to his victims for his heinous acts, nor expressed an iota of remorse in court, his father stood at the door of the court room apologizing to all of his son’s victims as they left the courtroom prompting a victim’s father to lament out loud, “It’s too bad that Harris didn’t have the same character as his dad.”
— The Roanoke Times (@roanoketimes) July 14, 2015
[Photo via Naval Air Station Oceana/ Facebook]