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Sex offense convictions: 51 bases had at least one conviction over 3-year period

Sep. 24, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The Air Force convicted 102 of its own for sexual offenses between 2010 and August 2012, according to the first compilation published by the service since the military came under fire for how it handles sex crimes earlier this year.

Ninety-five of those convicted were enlisted airmen. Six were officers, and one an Air Force Academy cadet. The highest-ranking airman on the list was a captain. More than eight out of 10 were sentenced to a discharge or dismissal.

Twenty-three of the 102 convicted received at least five years confinement; 10 were sentenced to a decade or more in prison.

The 62-page document, which is posted on the Judge Advocate General website, lists the name and rank of each convicted airman, the base where the offense occurred, a brief description of the charges and the sentence. It does not state whether sentences were reduced by commanders, who have the final say in criminal cases, or during an appeal.

The Air Force has said commanders have exercised their clemency authority in sex assault cases five times in five years.

The list also does not include courts-martial that ended in acquittals or complaints of sexual misconduct handled administratively.

“The appropriate disposition of sexual assault allegations and investigations may not always include referral to trial by court-martial,” the document states.

The Air Force had a 57 percent conviction rate in fiscal 2012, according to the report. It does not say what the rate was in 2010 and 2011.

Some lawmakers and victim advocates have accused the military of ignoring complaints of sexual assault and retaliating against victims, which they say has led to under-reporting and a free pass for offenders. They have called for changes that would strip commanders of clemency authority and oust from the military any service member convicted of sexual assault.

The services have responded by ramping up sexual assault prevention and response efforts and releasing documents related to the sex crimes.

In July, the Navy published the results of each court-martial and special court-martial from January to June — 135 in all. Although it included all crimes, the Navy said it was an effort to curb sexual assault, and the service plans to publish the information regularly.

“This department is committed to using all available resources to prevent this crime, aggressively investigate allegations and prosecute as appropriate,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement announcing the release. “We will not hide from this challenge — we will be active, open and transparent.”

The policy director for advocacy organization Protect Our Defenders said the recently published list of Air Force convictions raises more questions than it answers.

“In its current format, this report provides a severely limited and incomplete picture of the U.S. Air Force’s efforts to prosecute perpetrators of rape and sexual assault,” Miranda Petersen said in an email. “Without knowing how many allegations were made, how many were not sent to court-martial but handled administratively or dismissed, how many ended in convictions for lesser or collateral offenses, and how many of those sentences were upheld as they are presented in this report, it is very difficult to evaluate its value.”

The document includes dozens of cases that were never made public. For example, in October 2012, Master Sgt. Brady . Mansfield, the noncommissioned officer in charge of his squadron’s training section at Hurlburt Field, Fla., stood trial on charges he made sexual comments to subordinate female airmen and touched one of them without her permission. Mansfield was convicted of multiple counts of cruelty or maltreatment and assault consummated by a battery and sentenced to three months’ confinement and reduction to senior airman.

Master Sgt. Donald Swiger Jr. of Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, “sexually and violently assaulted several women with whom he had intimate relationships,” the report states. He was convicted of aggravated sexual assault, abusive sexual contact and related charges in August 2012 and sentenced to more than 13 years in prison, reduction to airman basic and a dishonorable discharge.

Fifty-one installations both in the U.S. and overseas had at least one sexual assault conviction, the document shows. No base had more than Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, where nine airmen — most of them basic training instructors — were convicted of charges ranging from rape to wrongful sexual contact and unprofessional relationships. Basic training was the target of a sweeping investigation after allegations of trainer misconduct with recruits first emerged in the summer of 2011.

Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, ranked second, with six convictions. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., had five, followed by the Air Force Academy with four.

All but 14 of the airmen received a discharge or a sentence of at least one year behind bars, or both.

Among those who received neither:

■ Senior Airman Zachary Ilarraza, convicted in November 2012 of raping a fellow airman after a night of heavy drinking at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. He got a seven-month jail sentence and reduction to airman basic.

■ Staff Sgt. Jesse Harston of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., was sentenced to six months confinement and reduction to E-1 in March 2012 for aggravated sexual assault, forcible sodomy and wrongful sexual contact of a woman at a party.

The document also shows sentences can be disparate among similar crimes. For example, Airman Basic Joshua Katso of Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., was sentenced to 10 years and a dishonorable discharge in May 2011 for entering the room of a female airman who was incapacitated from drinking alcohol and sexually assaulting her.

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