Harassment case against airman falls apart in trial
Verdict seen as hit to ‘overreaction’
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.