*Research not complete. (Includes Lackland AFB, Randolph AFB, Kelly AFB, Fort Sam Houston, Camp Bullis, & Camp Stanley)
“On Jan. 31, 2010, the 502nd ABW took over responsibility as the host unit at Lackland and Randolph. On that day, the 12th Mission Support Group at Randolph inactivated and the 902nd Mission Support Group activated in its place. Meanwhile, the 37th Mission Support Group at Lackland inactivated and the 802nd Mission Support Group activated in its place. At Fort Sam Houston, the wing assumed IOC on April 30, 2010, when the 502nd Mission Support Group (502 MSG) activated. The 502nd MSG also provided installation support for Camp Bullis in northwestern Bexar County. The US Army Garrison at Fort Sam Houston remained active alongside the 502nd MSG until JBSA achieved Full Operational Capability (FOC) on 1 October 2010. At FOC, the Garrison inactivated and the Army civilian employees transferred to the Air Force. On Dec. 4, 2013, in a transformation ceremony held at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, the 502nd, 802nd and 902nd Mission Support Groups inactivated and became respectively the 502nd Force Support Group; the 502nd Installation Support Group; and the 502nd Security Forces and Logistics Support Group.” –502nd Air Base Wing
In the 2011/2012 timeframe, the Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal coverage began to gain serious momentum in the media. As a result, military leadership set up a hotline number for former recruits to report claims of sexual abuse while attending basic training. After a base wide investigation, 35 basic military training instructors were court-martialed for allegedly abusing trainees or sex related offenses. MSgt Michael Silva was one of two basic military training instructors at Lackland AFB found guilty and sentenced by the military courts to 20 years for rape. SSgt Luis Walker was the other instructor and committed suicide shortly after learning his appeal was denied. At an Article 32 evidentiary hearing convened in Silva’s case, he was facing charges of raping a basic trainee from 1995 and two ex-wives (one in the 1992-1993 time frame and another in 2007). In January 2015, Silva was convicted of raping two of the alleged victims, the basic trainee in 1995 and one of the ex-wives. MSgt Silva wrote a clemency letter to the convening authority in the courts-martial at Joint Base San-Antonio claiming that he was falsely accused and wanted to retire with the rank, pay and benefits of an Air Force senior master sergeant, the rank he earned but was never allowed to wear. Silva claims that his accusers (also military members at the time of the alleged incidents) were motivated to accuse him of rape in an effort to collect veteran’s benefits totaling over $3000 a month. The alleged victim’s names in this case have been protected for their own privacy. Both the 2nd AF SJA office and the convening authority taking action on this case were provided over 150 pages of evidence found post trial proving that the alleged victims were either lying or not credible.
On July 20, 2017, Save Our Heroes reported that MSgt Michael Silva’s rape conviction and twenty year prison sentence had been overturned by the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals. MSgt Silva’s defense presented seven arguments and the Court of Criminal Appeals made their decision after seeing only one of those arguments, although they referenced some of the injustice in the other arguments, they ruled them moot at this point and would not be answered. MSgt Silva’s case was overturned due to an error on the part of Judge (Col) Natalie Richardson provided, inter alia, the following instructions to the court members before counsels’ arguments on findings:
“An accused may be convicted based only on evidence before the court, not on evidence of a general criminal predisposition. Each offense must stand on its own, and you must keep the evidence of each offense separate. Stated differently: if you find or believe that the accused is guilty of one offense, that—you may not use that finding, or that belief as a basis for inferring, assuming, or proving that he committed any other offense. . . . Proof of one offense carries with it no inference that the accused is guilty of any other offense.”
“Evidence that the accused committed one sexual offense alleged in a Specification—so 1, 2, 3, or 4 of the Charge—may have no bearing on your deliberations in relation to any other of those Specifications unless you first determine by preponderance of the evidence, that is more likely than not, that one offense alleged oc- curred. So if you determine by preponderance of the evidence that the offense alleged in the specification of the Charge occurred, even if you are not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of that offense, you may nonetheless then con- sider the evidence of that offense for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant in relation to the other alleged specifications. You may also consider the evidence of such other sexual offenses for its tendency, if any, to show the accused [sic] propensity or predisposition to engage in sexual offenses. You may not, how- ever, convict the accused solely because you believe he commit- ted this other offense or solely because you believe the accused has a propensity or predisposition to engage in sexual offenses. In other words you cannot use this evidence to overcome a fail- ure of proof in the government’s case if you perceive any to exist. The accused may be convicted of an alleged offense only if the prosecution has proven each element beyond a reasonable doubt. Each offense must stand on its own, and the proof of one offense carries no inference that the accused is guilty of any other of- fense. In other words, proof of one sexual offense creates no in- ference that the accused is guilty of any other sexual offense. However, it may demonstrate that the accused has a propensity to commit that type of offense. The prosecution’s burden of proof to establish the accused [sic] guilt beyond a reasonable doubt re- mains as to each and every element of each offense charged. Proof of one, proof of one charged offense carries with it no infer-ence that the accused is guilty of any other charged offense.”
“…There were weaknesses in the Government’s case. The alleged crimes occurred far in the past. There were no eyewitnesses other than the victims themselves. The only one of the charged or uncharged victims to report the alleged crimes to law enforcement prior to 2012 was JB, and she recanted her initial allegation. The Prosecution presented no physical, scientific, or photographic evidence of any of the offenses. The Government offered no confessions or admissions to any of the offenses by Appellant, who did not testify.” –United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals
MSgt Silva was merely a scapegoat in the Lackland sex scandal. His wife Lisa made the following statement: “They finally did the right thing by admitting that my husband wasn’t afforded a fair trial. They simply used him as a scape goat because of all the political pressure and attention on the alleged Lackland Sex Scandal. By convicting Mike they were sending a message to all the MTI’s both past and present demonstrating that they would go after them no matter what. I don’t know who would want want to even be a MTI knowing that a potential false allegation could be hanging over their head for 20 years and potentially ruin your life. Mike was an amazing mentor to so many over his 24 year career and all they did was destroy him. He was defeated by the very institution he served to protect and defend.”
The political witch hunts produced convictions of military training instructors to appease congressional leaders, and it resulted in one sided investigations. In MSgt Silva’s case, they didn’t even verify statements made by the accusers. In other words, there was no evidence to charge MSgt Silva to begin with because this was indeed a purely ‘he said, she said’ case. And the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) went on a fishing expedition when they sought out MSgt Silva’s ex-wives, who technically may not have the necessary credibility if they were at all resentful or angry that the marriage ended. It appears the AFOSI attempted to connect three accusers in an effort to prove MSgt Silva was a serial rapist with a propensity to commit crimes in the future. As part of a response to the high profile Lackland sex scandal, the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) set up a temporary hot line. One accuser used the specially created hotline to report an alleged rape in 1995 and the other two accusers were ex-wives sought out by AFOSI to bolster their case (one recanted her allegation). Instead, they gave the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals grounds to throw the conviction out because the alleged criminal modus operandi was not similar in pattern whatsoever and MSgt Silva was never charged or convicted of any crimes prior to his court-martial. Let’s hope the United States Air Force does the right thing in this case and demonstrates to Congress and the civilian organizations that they are serious about fighting crime only when there is evidence to support it.
“The court authorized a rehearing where the government could, in theory, bring new evidence justifying a new trial. This is highly unlikely, given that a new trial would only deepen the embarrassment.” –John Q. Public
“Soto faced as much as life without parole for the rape, one of six charges and eight specifications of misconduct.” -My SA
SSgt Eddy Soto was a basic military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Soto was one of the 35 instructors courts martialed in what is referred to as the Lackland Sex Scandal. SSgt Soto was accused of unprofessional relationships, adultery, and the rape of one airman whom it appeared he had a relationship with. Investigators learned of the relationship Soto had with the airman who accused him of rape as part of a widespread probe into MTI misconduct. Soto faced life without parole but prosecutors asked for 12-15 years. Soto pleaded guilty to five charges and admitted that he had unprofessional relationships with a trainee and a civilian who had come to the base to see her husband graduate from basic training. He also admitted to adultery charges but he denied the rape accusation. He was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison in March 2013. After his confinement ended, he would be dishonorably discharged from the Air Force. Soto was the second instructor convicted of rape in the scandal. SSgt Luis Walker was the first conviction and he received 20 years for the rape of one airman and sexual assault of several others.
In an exceptional ruling by the Air Force Criminal Court of Appeals, Soto’s conviction for rape was overturned in Sept 2014. The military appeals court ruled the evidence was “factually insufficient” to support the conviction. In other words, there wasn’t enough evidence to find him guilty in the first place. The appeals court upheld the lesser charges of unprofessional relationships, adultery, and false official statement. The judge ruled the four year sentence and dishonorable discharge should be set aside and the case was referred back to the convening authority who had the authority to hold a new sentencing hearing. Soto remained jailed at the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in California while the government decided whether to ask the appeals court to reconsider their ruling. SSgt Eddy Soto served over a year and a half for a rape conviction that lacked evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Media reports stated Soto would be re-sentenced by a lower court for unprofessional relationships, adultery, and false official statement. Further on-line research did not find evidence of the final disposition of SSgt Soto’s case. We do not know if he was re-sentenced, released from prison and when, or if he was discharged from the military.
The findings of guilty for Charge III, Specification 1 are set aside and dismissed. The remaining findings of guilty are affirmed. The sentence is set aside. The record of trial is returned to The Judge Advocate General for remand to an appropriate convening authority who may order a rehearing to determine an appropriate sentence for the affirmed findings of guilty. If the convening authority determines that a rehearing on the sentence is impracticable, the convening authority may approve a sentence of “no punishment” or dismiss the remaining charges and specifications. –USAF Court of Criminal Appeals
SrA Christopher Oliver was a basic military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He was one of the 35 instructors courts martialed after a base-wide investigation into what is now referred to as the Lackland Sex Scandal. SrA Oliver was accused of having unprofessional relationships with at least 4 new recruits and was accused of sexual assault and sodomy with one of those trainees. He was also accused of adultery and using his rank and authority to gain sexual favors. SrA Oliver pleaded guilty to unprofessional relationships and adultery. Oliver was found not guilty of aggravated sexual assault. In June 2013, a military judge convicted him of consensual sodomy, wrongful sexual contact, adultery, and unprofessional relationships. He may be listed on the sex offender registry because of the wrongful sexual contact conviction. SrA Oliver was sentenced to two years in prison and was given a dishonorable discharge. Although the actions for which he was found guilty were unprofessional and in fact UCMJ infractions, they were not criminal in nature yet he was sentenced to 2 years in prison for consensual sex and adultery, a law that doesn’t exist in the civilian world. The Air Force gave SrA Oliver the fifth longest sentence in the Lackland Sex Scandal. SSgt Craig LeBlanc had the fourth longest sentence at 2 1/2 years for unprofessional relationships & adultery. SSgt Eddy Soto had the third longest sentence at four years for rape but Soto’s conviction was later overturned by the Air Force Criminal Court of Appeals. The rape charge lacked sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. SSgt Luis Walker and MSgt Michael Silva both received twenty year sentences for rape and sexual assault.
Hearing is Gillibrand’s First As Chair Of Senate Armed Services Subcommittee On Personnel – Has Been Leading The Fight To End Sexual Violence In Military
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released the following prepared remarks of her opening statement at today’s Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel hearing examining sexual assault in the military:
“It is an honor and privilege to Chair this hearing of the Personnel Subcommittee this morning. I want to thank the Ranking Member of this Subcommittee, Senator Lindsey Graham, for his support and working with me to move this hearing forward as quickly as possible.
“I know that all of our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee share our deep commitment to improving the quality of life of the men and women who serve in our all-volunteer force on active duty, or in the National Guard and Reserves, their families, military retirees, and Department of Defense Civilian personnel.
“And that is why this hearing today is so important to me personally…and to thousands of servicemembers…and their families across the country.
“The issue of sexual violence in the military is not new. And it has been allowed to go on in the shadows for far too long. The scourge of sexual violence in the military should be intolerable and infuriating to us all. Our best, brightest, and bravest join our armed forces for all the right reasons – to serve our country, protect our freedom, and keep America safe.
“The United States has the best military in the world and the overwhelmingly vast majority of our brave men and women serving in uniform do so honorably and bravely. But there is also no doubt that we have men and women in uniform who are committing acts of sexual violence and should no longer be allowed to serve.
“Too often, women and men have found themselves in the fight of their lives not in the theater of war – but in their own ranks, among their own brothers and sisters, and ranking officers, in an environment that enables sexual assault.
“And after an assault occurs, an estimated 19,000 sexual assaults happened in 2011 alone according to the Defense Department’s own estimates…some of these victims have to fight all over again with every ounce of their being just to have their voice heard…their assailant brought to any measure of justice… and the disability claims they deserve fulfilled. Congress would be derelict in its duty of oversight if we just shrugged our shoulders at these 19,000 sons and daughters…husbands and wives…mothers and fathers…and did nothing. We simply have to do better by them.
“When brave men and women volunteer to serve in our military they know the risks involved. But sexual assault at the hands of a fellow service member should never be one of them.
“Because not only does sexual assault cause unconscionable harm to the victim — sexual violence is reported to be the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder among women veterans — but it destabilizes our military, threatens unit cohesion and national security. Beyond the enormous human costs both psychologically and physically, this crisis is costing us significant assets – making us weaker both morally and militarily.
“Already, this Committee and the Pentagon took some first steps on this issue as part of last year’s National Defense Authorization bill that President Obama signed into law. While obviously our work is not done, I am hopeful that we can build on these initial changes which include:
Ensuring that all convicted sex offenders in the military are processed for discharge or dismissal from the Armed Forces regardless of which branch they serve in;
Reserving case-disposition authority for only high-ranking officers in sexual assault cases;
Pushing the Pentagon to lift the combat ban that prevents women from officially serving in many of the combat positions that can lead to significant promotion opportunities. By opening the door for more qualified women to excel in our military, we will have increased diversity in top leadership positions, improving response from leadership when it comes to preventing and responding to sexual violence;
And an amendment introduced by my colleague Senator Jeanne Shaheen and based on my legislation, the MARCH Act, means that troops who become pregnant as a result of an act of rape no longer have to pay out of pocket to have those pregnancies terminated.
“Concerning our first panel of witnesses, I want to salute each of you for your courage today in telling your very painful and personal stories. It is my hope and belief that by committing this selfless act you are encouraging others to step forward and are also helping to prevent other crimes from going unpunished.
“We have a duty to you, and the thousands of victims you represent, to examine whether the military justice system is the most effective and fairest system it can be.
“Despite some very dedicated JAG officers, I do not believe the current system adequately meets that standard. The statistics on prosecution rates for sexual assaults in the military are devastating. Of the 2,439 unrestricted reports filed in 2011 for sexual violence cases – only 240 proceeded to trial. Nearly 70 percent of these reports were for rape, aggravated sexual assault or non-consensual sodomy.
“A system where less than 1 out of 10 reported perpetrators are held accountable for their alleged crimes is not a system that is working. And that is just reported crimes. The Defense Department itself puts the real number closer to 19,000! A system where in reality less than 2 out of 100 alleged perpetrators are faced with any trial at all is clearly inadequate and unacceptable.
“My view is that emphasizing institutional accountability and the prosecution of cases is needed to create a real deterrent of criminal behavior. The system needs to encourage victims that coming forward and participating in their perpetrator’s prosecution is not detrimental to their safety or future, and will result in justice being done. Because currently, according to the DOD, 47 percent of service members are too afraid to report their assaults, because of fear of retaliation, harm or punishment. Too many victims do not feel that justice is likely or even possible.
“We need to take a close look at our military justice system, and we need to be asking the hard questions, with all options on the table, including moving this issue outside of the chain of command, so we can get closer to a true zero tolerance reality in the Armed Forces. The case we have all read about at Aviano Air Base is shocking, and the outcome should compel all of us to take the necessary action to ensure that justice is swift and certain, not rare and fleeting.
“I had the opportunityto press Secretary Hagel on the issue of sexual violence in the military during his confirmation hearing. Secretary Hagel responded by saying, ‘I agree it is not good enough just to say zero tolerance. The whole chain of command needs to be accountable for this.’
“I could not agree more. I was very pleased with the Secretary’s public statement earlier this week that he is open to considering changes to the military justice system as well as legislation to ‘ensure the effectiveness of our responses to the crime of sexual assault.’
“It is with this spirit as our guide that I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.
“After Ranking Member Graham makes his opening remarks, we will hear testimony from my colleague from California, Senator Barbara Boxer who has been a leading voice on this issue. In last year’s Defense bill she successfully included an amendment that prohibits any individual who is convicted of a felony sexual assault from being issued a waiver to join the military.
“We will then have the following witnesses who have either been the victims of sexual assault while serving in the military, or are very knowledgeable advocates for addressing the issue of sexual assaults in the military:
Anu Bhagwati is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Service Women’s Action Network. Anu is a former Captain and Company Commander, she served as a Marine officer from 1999 to 2004. While serving, Anu faced discrimination and harassment as a woman in the military, and has borne direct witness to the military’s handling of sexual violence.
BriGette McCoy, former Specialist in the U.S. Army. BriGette served in the U.S. Army from 1987 to 1991. She was just eighteen years old when she signed up to serve her country in the first Gulf War. While stationed in Germany from 1988 to 1991, she was sexually assaulted by a non-commanding officer.
Rebekah Havrilla, former Sergeant in the U.S. Army. Rebekah served in the U.S. Army from 2004 to 2008. She was the only female member of a bomb squad in eastern Afghanistan and was attacked by a colleague at Salerno Forward Operating Base near the Pakistani border during her last week in the country in 2007.
Brian Lewis, former Petty Officer Third Class, US. Navy. Brian enlisted in the U.S. Navy in June of 1997. During his tour aboard USS Frank Cable (AS-40), he was raped by a superior non-commissioned officer and forced to go back out to sea after the assault.
“I encourage you to express your views candidly and to tell us what is working and what is not working. Help us to understand what we can do to address this unacceptable problem of sexual assaults in the military.
“Later this afternoon at 2:00 p.m., we will have a third panel of witnesses from the Department of Defense, and the military services, including the Coast Guard. I want to acknowledge that many of those witnesses are here this morning to listen to the critically important testimony from our first and second panels and I would like to thank them for their participation.”
SSgt Craig LeBlanc was a Basic Military Training Instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He is also one of the 35 instructors courts martialed after a base-wide investigation into sexual abuse claims referred to as the Lackland Sex Scandal. He was accused of having inappropriate relationships with recruits, adultery, and sexual assault. He was found not guilty of sexual assault. Nonetheless, SSgt LeBlanc was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in February 2013. Although the actions for which he was found guilty were unprofessional and in fact Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) infractions, they were not criminal in nature yet he got prison time for consensual sex and adultery, a law that doesn’t exist in the civilian world. The Air Force gave SSgt LeBlanc the fourth longest prison sentence. SSgt Eddy Soto was sentenced to four years for the rape of a trainee but a year and a half later, the Air Force Criminal Court of Appeals overturned the conviction and set aside the original prison sentence. The rape charge lacked evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. SSgt Luis Walker and MSgt Michael Silva were both sentenced to twenty years for rape and sexual assault convictions. SSgt LeBlanc attempted to appeal his sentence but the military appeals court denied it.
“The dismissal of these two specifications does not dramatically change the penalty landscape; in fact, only the maximum confinement authorized would change. Without the convictions on these two specifications, the confinement exposure is reduced from 22 years and 1 month to 18 years and 1 month. The appellant was sentenced to confinement for 30 months. Having considered the totality of the circumstances, we would reassess the appellant’s sentence to the same sentence approved by the convening authority.” -USAF Court of Criminal Appeals (March 2015)
“If Estacio had been convicted of sexual assault or wrongful sexual contact, the Air Force would have been required to notify state officials so he could be placed on a sex-offender registry, said Lt. Col. Mark Hoover, an Air Force training command attorney.” -My SA
SSgt Kwinton Estacio was a basic military training instructor as Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He was one of the 35 instructors courts martialed in what is referred to as the Lackland Sex Scandal. SSgt Estacio was accused of a sexual assault and wrongful sexual contact with a trainee. The judge found him not guilty of sexual assault as there was not enough evidence to support the charge. A sexual assault conviction carried a maximum sentence of thirty years. A jury found him not guilty of wrongful sexual contact. Sexual assault and wrongful sexual contact indictments could have landed him on the sex offender registry. SSgt Estacio pleaded guilty to an unprofessional relationship, disobeying a direct order, and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to one year in prison and received a bad conduct discharge. He appealed his sentence but the appeal was denied. Although the actions for which he was found guilty were unprofessional and in fact UCMJ infractions, they were not criminal in nature yet he was sentenced to 1 year in prison. SSgt Estacio had the sixth longest prison sentence in the Lackland scandal. SrA Christopher Oliver had the fifth longest sentence at 2 years for unprofessional relationships and adultery. SSgt Craig LeBlanc had the fourth longest sentence at 2 1/2 years for unprofessional relationships & adultery. SSgt Eddy Soto had the third longest sentence at 4 years for rape but Soto’s conviction was later overturned by the Air Force Criminal Court of Appeals. The rape charge lacked sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. SSgt Luis Walker and MSgt Michael Silva both received 20 year sentences for rape and sexual assault.