Ha­rass­ment case against air­man falls apart in trial

Ver­dict seen as hit to ‘over­re­ac­tion’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. | As Air Force mis­sions go, the pros­e­cu­tion of Tech. Sgt. Aaron D. All­mon II on ex­plo­sive sex­ual-ha­rass­ment charges ran into tur­bu­lence and wound up in a nose­dive.

De­spite fac­ing up to 130 years in prison in the early stages of the case, Sgt. All­mon was sen­tenced to just 30 days be­hind bars af­ter a judge found him not guilty of the most dev­as­tat­ing charges against him, in­clud­ing as­sault con­sum­mated by a bat­tery and threats against co-work­ers.

Judge Tif­fany Wag­ner did find him guilty of mal­treat­ment of two fe­male ser­vice mem­bers and making a false of­fi­cial state­ment. Pros­e­cu­tors then pushed for a bad-con­duct dis­charge and re­duc­tion of rank to se­nior air­man. The judge re­fused and in­stead docked him one stripe.

The out­come rep­re­sented a blow to the mil­i­tary’s high-pro­file at­tack on sex-re­lated of­fenses, a cam­paign aimed at im­prov­ing safety and pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the work­place that has come un­der fire for spurring a cli­mate in which seem­ingly in­nocu­ous in­ter­ac­tions can bal­loon into crim­i­nal of­fenses.

“While the ver­dict was not what we had hoped for, it nev­er­the­less stands as a strong re­buke to those who have vi­o­lated their sa­cred oath to seek jus­tice and fairness for all ser­vice mem­bers,” said Jef­frey F. Ad­di­cott, a re­tired Army of­fi­cer and a mem­ber of Sgt. All­mon’s de­fense team.

Mr. Ad­di­cott, a law pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the St. Mary’s Univer­sity School of Law Cen­ter for Ter­ror­ism Law in San An­to­nio, called the case an “out­rage of over­re­ac­tion” that should never have be­come the sub­ject of a gen­eral court-mar­tial.

“This is really a story about how the Air Force lead­er­ship has aban­doned their lead­er­ship du­ties in the name of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and ex­pe­di­ency by em­ploy­ing direct and in­di­rect un­law­ful com­mand in­flu­ence against any male ac­cused of any type of im­proper con­duct to­wards a fe­male,” Mr. Ad­di­cott said in a state­ment.

“Hope­fully the Air Force lead­er­ship got the mes­sage loud and clear,” he added.

Af­ter the trial, the Minot Air Force Base pub­lic af­fairs of­fice re­leased a state­ment say­ing the case “demon­strates the Air Force’s com­mit­ment to tack­ling sex­ual ha­rass­ment, which is on the con­tin­uum of harm that in­cludes sex­ual as­sault.”

“Each and ev­ery al­le­ga­tion is taken se­ri­ously, in­ves­ti­gated fully, and ad­ju­di­cated fairly, re­gard­less of the gen­der, race, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, or rank of the ac­cused or ac­cuser,” said the state­ment. “The Air Force also re­mains ded­i­cated to a sys­tem of mil­i­tary jus­tice that guar­an­tees fun­da­men­tal fairness to all, es­pe­cially those ac­cused of a crime, and en­sures a dis­ci­plined Air Force com­mit­ted to the mis­sion of na­tional se­cu­rity and de­fense.”

Sgt. All­mon was ac­cused of “in­ap­pro­pri­ate touch­ing” in­volv­ing four women, as well as making a num­ber of crude state­ments to women in his of­fice, such as ask­ing to see one ser­vice mem­ber’s nip­ples and telling an­other that he would have sex with her if he weren’t mar­ried.

A staff sergeant ac­cused him of brush­ing up her shorts to see her tat­too, which was the as­sault charge. A civil­ian co-worker said he ran his hand up her leg, though she pre­vi­ously told an in­ves­ti­ga­tor that he touched her knee.

The prob­lem for the pros­e­cu­tion ap­peared to be a lack of ev­i­dence. The judge found Sgt. All­mon not guilty of all touch­ing of­fenses and threats, none of which could be cor­rob­o­rated by other wit­nesses.

Most of the crude ver­bal in­ter­ac­tions also fell into the cat­e­gory of “he said, she said.”

The civil­ian co-worker said he sent her text mes­sages invit­ing her to his home at night, but a search of his cell­phone, in­clud­ing a search for deleted mes­sages, turned up noth­ing.

The two mal­treat­ment charges in­volved two young ser­vice women whom he in­structed in pho­tog­ra­phy in the pub­lic af­fairs of­fice.

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