RJ Aviation pilot takes a plea in sex abuse, child pornography case

Oct 30, 2017

Air taxi pilot and flight controller Robert Joseph May, 42, from King Salmon pled guilty to two counts of possessing child pornography and will spend between two and four years in jail.

Robert Joseph May, 42, has begun a jail term of two to four years following a change of plea hearing in early October. The state dismissed five charges of second degree sexual abuse of a minor in return guilty pleas on two counts of possessing child pornography. The air taxi pilot and contract flight controller from King Salmon will be sentenced on Jan. 25, and Judge Michael Wolverton will determine whether his two two-year terms will run back-to-back or concurrently, or some combination.

The sentence will have 12 years of suspended jail time, and May will be on probation after his release and be required to register as a sex offender.

The disturbing allegations against May surfaced after a lengthy investigation by Alaska State Trooper Alfred Borrego, who had received a tip that the pilot may have been carrying on a relationship with a 15-year-old girl from a nearby village.

By the time charges were filed in June, 2016, Borrego had documented five times May had sex with the teenager between August 2015 and March 2016, twice while he was piloting his aircraft with the young girl as a passenger.

Troopers seized a GoPro camera and laptop computer during their search, and images of the illicit sexual activity with the minor while in flight were discovered. One photo with May and the minor had been labeled with a racially derogatory term suggesting a perverse way the pilot collected his fare.

The AST Technical Crimes Unit also turned up 147 images of child sexual exploitation on May’s laptop computer. “A number of those images included unidentified nude minors aged 7-14 years, posed and/or engaged in explicit sexual activities with adults,” reads the statement of facts May pleaded guilty to. The investigators believe May was involved in receiving and distributing child pornography, including the images he created with the young local victim.

The state agreed to dismiss the sexual abuse of a minor charges, though May acknowledged in his plea that he would likely have been convicted on the charges by a judge or jury. He faced a maximum of 99 years from all of the accused crimes.

The terms of May’s sex offender status are severe: he will rarely be allowed to have contact with any teenagers younger than 16, must complete a sex offender evaluation and any prescribed treatment, cannot possess any pornography, visit any adult materials stores, or even have an internet account. His home and any electronics will be subject to search while he is on probation.

His business license for RJ Aviation, first registered in 2011, expired at the end of 2016. May operated a Cessna 182 and a Piper Cherokee, flying routes between Alaska Peninsula and Iliamna Lake villages from his home in King Salmon. After charges were filed, he was fired as a Serco contract air traffic controller at the King Salmon tower. A few months later his then-partner Evelyn McClain filed for “custody of minor children,” according to court records.

After his June 2016 arrest, May was initially held on $100,000 bail, though that was reduced a few weeks later to the $25,000 he posted and was released. He remained out of custody until his Oct. 4 plea, when he remanded to begin his sentence.

May’s attorney, Josh Fannon, said he or his client will have more to say about this case and the investigation after sentencing in January.

dave@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281