Despite pleas from Air Force lawyers, the service is declining to charge a military doctor accused of sexually and physically abusing two elementary-school-aged boys.
The accusations, which included sodomy, black eyes and cuts, were dismissed on June 15 after an Air Force two-star general determined that the evidence uncovered was “inconclusive,” according to interviews and documents obtained by USA Today.
The allegations were against Col. Eric Holt, a battlefield physician wounded by an improvised explosive device during a night-time raid in Afghanistan in 2009. Holt transferred into anesthesiology after his injury, as chronicled by Bethesda Magazine, and moved on to work at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.
Lawyers for the two boys wrote a letter on June 14 to Air Force officials urging charges be pursued against Holt, citing photographs of the boys’ injuries and expert testimony supporting the truthfulness of their accounts.
The allegations caught the attention of some Congress members — including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Massachusetts Democratic Reps. Joe Kennedy III and Niki Tsongas. Those three members co-authored a letter calling for Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein to review the case.
“We are concerned that the safety of the children in this case could be seriously undermined because of reported actions taken by members of the command and Air Force Office of Special Investigations, which suggest that the Air Force’s own procedures and policies were not followed,” the Congress members wrote in their June 12 letter.
After undergoing a dual review, however, the case is closed.
Holt faced charges under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which covers rape, sexual assault, and other sexual misconduct.
The sexual assault component of the case meant that a dual review of the evidence was required. The special court-martial convening authority decided against recommending the case go before a preliminary hearing, and the two-star general overseeing the case chose not to overturn that decision and order the case up to a general court-martial convening authority, according to Newsweek.
“The investigation wrongfully omitted highly relevant information in this case,” the Air Force attorneys for the boys, Capts. Lauren Kerby and Stephanie Howell, wrote in the memo to Air Force leadership this month.
The omitted evidence includes a photo of one of the boys’ bruised genitals and a statement from one women to whom the boy complained about the incident, USA Today reported.
“These are very serious allegations, and we took numerous steps to thoroughly investigate and protect the welfare of these children,” Lt. Col. Brus Vidal, an Air Force spokesman, said in a statement to USA Today. “In this case, the Air Force investigated the allegations, reviewed evidence and assessments from Maryland law enforcement and child service agencies, and then determined there was not sufficient evidence to support the allegations.”
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.