Thursday, April 19, 2018

More under investigation in Air Force sexual abuse, misconduct scandal

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The number of instructors at an Air Force base under investigation in a widening sexual abuse and misconduct case has increased from 12 to 15 and the number of alleged victims has gone up by seven to 38, officials said Thursday.

Officials declined to identify the three new instructors at Lackland Air Force Base who are under investigation or comment on the nature of the allegations because no charges have been filed against them, said Brent Boller, a spokesman for Joint Base San Antonio, which operates Lackland.

The increase in the number of instructors and alleged victims was first reported by the San Antonio-Express News. The numbers could continue to grow, Boller said.

Last week, a military jury sentenced one former instructor, Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, to 20 years in prison after he was convicted of rape and sexual assault. The counts against Walker were the most severe in the investigation.

Lackland is where all Air Force recruits go through basic training. It has about 500 instructors for about 35,000 airmen who graduate every year. While one in five recruits are female, most instructors are male.

Six of the 15 instructors being investigated have been charged, with Walker and Staff Sgt. Peter Vega-Maldonado already having been court-martialed. Vega-Maldonado admitted in June to having sex with a female trainee and was given 90 days of confinement as part of a plea deal.

Courts-martial have been set for four other trainers.

A two-star general, Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward, has launched a separate, independent investigation.

The House Armed Services Committee plans a closed-door briefing next week on the ongoing inquiry.

The sexual misconduct at the base apparently began in 2009, but the first woman didn't come forward until last year.

The Air Force has permanently removed Walker and 35 other instructors for reasons including misconduct, failure to meet standards and medical issues.

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