The Air Force wants to sentence an airman to 130 years for sexual harassment
Technical Sergeant Aaron Allmon is a decorated combat photographer. He is one of the Air Force's best, having served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was named 2008 Military Photographer of the Year. He documented all branches of the United States military, regular forces and special operations alike, during his tenure in the Air Force's 1st Combat Camera Squadron. After his combat tours, he went to Hawaii to recover remains of the U.S. war dead in Asia.
As he fought post-traumatic stress and debilitating back pain, the Air Force sent him to Minot, North Dakota in 2012 to train airmen there on the skills he mastered so well. He struggles to this day. After 19 years in service, the Air Force wants to send him up the river. He faces 130 years in prison in an ongoing court martial trial.
His crimes are not theft, rape, murder, arson, or anything close to violence. The Washington Times found his trespasses against fellow airmen in the Minot public affairs office amount to "three kisses and six touches, plus a series of reported inappropriate comments of a sexual nature." All are unwelcome personal contact. The report also alleges Allmon touched knees and a woman's back, kissed someone's forehead and shoulders, and made the aforementioned inappropriate remarks.
If Allmon did what the Air Force alleges, he should certainly face punishment for it. No one is questioning the women who came forward to accuse the Minot NCO. What is in question is the severity of the punishment he faces if convicted.
Allmon's sister Lisa Roper is a San Antonio business executive. She is mounting her brother's defense to the tune of what she believes will be $200,000. The court martial is a felony court, which came as a surprise to one of the accused's legal defense attorneys, Jeffrey Addicott, a former Army judge advocate and now law professor at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.
"Even assuming all the charges are true, which they are not, this conduct as charged would warrant nonjudicial punishment, not the highest level of action at a general court-martial where Aaron could lose all his retirement benefits and go to jail," Addicott told the Washington Times.
The presiding officer at Allmon's Article 32 pretrial hearing in December 2014 was Lt. Col. Bendon Tukey. He questioned the prosecution's stacking of charges and sentences during a post-trial recommendation.
"In many of the individual specifications," Tukey wrote, "it could be argued that the accused was not so much motivated by sex or a desire to humiliate or degrade as simply being socially maladroit and crass."
How did the sentencing get so far out of hand? How did a case like this even come so far? An experienced former agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) told WATM a few important things to remember to clarify Allmon's situation. Agents are not identified because of the nature of their work.
The first thing to remember is Allmon is not charged with any Article 120 offenses (rape, sexual assault, other sexual misconduct). The only physical contact violation is an Article 128 violation for Simple Assault. When OSI opens an investigation of this type, it is usually because the victim or victims contacted the base Sexual Assault Response Coordinator or Special Victims Counsel.
On the sentence of 130 years, the agent told us initial allegations can differ greatly from what is actually charged for the court martial. OSI consistently disproves allegations or finds additional misconduct in the course of these cases. OSI has to investigate any other potential victims. The standard procedure in a sexual assault case to identify behavioral indicators that the subject may be a serial sex offender. They will talk to anyone who may possibly have been victimized. They certainly would have talked to anyone with whom Allmon worked.
What is charged in the docket is what he will be tried on. However, the docket doesn't list all of the specifications. You could have one charge of assault, but four specifications of different actions that all count as assault. When lawyers continue to add up the specifications, then that can be called "piling on." There could have been a rape allegation that was disproved, but other issues could still justify the preferral of charges. No one ever gets the maximum sentence, but there is certainly some strategy in piling on the charges. It allows for negotiation for a pre-trial agreement, the military version of a plea deal.
If the Air Force couldn't get a court martial, they wouldn't offer him an Article 15 for demotion. The Air Force would keep reprimanding Allmon until he was forced to get out as a Technical Sergeant (E-6). The agent believes this case is going to be about a few months to maybe a year in jail, but definitely a bad conduct discharge or possible a dishonorable.