Thu, Jul 19, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Trial opens in USAF sex scandal

SEX PREDATOR?Staff Sergeant Luis Walker is facing a court-martial for his part in an alleged sexual abuse scandal centered on Lackland Air Force Base

AP, SAN ANTONIO, Texas

A woman testified on Tuesday that a Texas US Air Force (USAF) base instructor facing charges in a widening military sex scandal refused her pleas of no after luring her into his office and then sexually assaulted her on a bed.

The alleged victim said after the attack, Staff Sergeant Luis Walker told her not to tell anybody about what had happened.

“I said no several times, in several different ways. He didn’t accept that answer,” the female airman testified, wiping away the tears that eventually came.

She was the first of four alleged victims who took the witness stand on the opening day of testimony at Walker’s court-martial at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. The women told jurors that Walker gained their trust to get them alone in his office or an empty dormitory and forced them into kissing, touching and sex.

They said they did not tell anybody at first because they feared being booted from the Air Force. The Associated Press is not naming them because they are alleged sexual assault victims.

Walker is among 12 instructors at the Lackland base who are facing charges or being investigated. His charges — 28 counts including rape, aggravated sexual contact and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault — are the most serious in the case. He faces up to life in prison and a dishonorable discharge if convicted by a seven-person jury comprised of military personnel.

The first alleged victim who testified told jurors that before assaulting her in his office, Walker had made sexually suggestive comments to her and hugged and kissed her in a stairwell.

While being questioned by Major Naomi Dennis, one of Walker’s attorneys, the alleged victim acknowledged she initially denied that anything inappropriate happened with Walker.

“At the time, I was not ready to talk about what had happened to me,” she said.

Another female airman testified that Walker pushed her against a wall one time in his office and put his hand down her pants.

“He told me if I told anyone about it, I would get kicked out with a dishonorable discharge,” she said.

Defense attorneys tried to discredit the women’s allegations, suggesting they have changed their stories multiple times or had romantic feelings for Walker.

Testimony was to resume yesterday.

During opening statements on Tuesday, one of the prosecutors, Major Patricia Gruen, described Walker as a “consummate predator” and a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” She said as a military instructor, he was responsible for helping mold recruits into airmen, but abused his authority.

“He used [his power] so he could gain sexual favors,” Gruen said. “He used it as a way to get his way with trainees.”

Dennis told jurors there is no evidence to substantiate the charges. Walker is accused of raping one female recruit and sexually assaulting or having inappropriate sexual or personal contact with nine others. Under military law, the difference between rape and aggravated sexual assault is that physical force has to be used to constitute rape.

“Ten victims, 28 charges. Those are just numbers. Numbers aren’t proof,” Dennis said. “This case requires you to dig deeper to find the truth. Once you start digging, you will find some pretty incredible scenarios.”

Base officials have described Walker’s case as the “cornerstone” of an ongoing investigation. A total of six instructors, including Walker, were charged.

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