87-year-old WWII ace freed from jail
BARTOW, Fla. - An 87-year-old World War II hero who has been behind bars for more than eight years for terrorizing one of his former wives in central Florida was sent home by a judge yesterday, despite a prosecutor's claims that he's still a dangerous man.
Abner Aust shuffled into a courtroom in Polk County wearing an orange jail outfit and an elaborate hearing aid.
The highly decorated flying ace who shot down enemy fighters over Japan in the waning days of World War II pleaded with Circuit Judge Randall McDonald to free him so he can get the help he needs for a litany of medical problems.
"I'd just like to be out, sir," Aust told the judge, who sentenced him to time served for violating probation and ordered him to spend the next two years on house arrest.
"I hope I'm not making a mistake," McDonald said.
Aust was a 23-year-old captain from Mississippi when he flew 14 combat missions in a P-51 Mustang from the captured island of Iwo Jima to the Japanese mainland in 1945. He was credited with shooting down at least five enemy fighters. The five confirmed "kills" certified him as a flying ace, one of the last of World War II.
Aust's attorney, Ronald Kurpiers, argued that the elderly man was a national hero who deserved to live the rest of his life in freedom.
Prosecutor Gary Allen said he believed Aust could still arrange for harm to come to two former wives with whom he has had disagreements over money and property ownership.