Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Air Force Colonel Samuel Lofton III Acquitted Of Rape, Convicted Of Numerous Other Charges In Court Martial, Sentenced To Nine Years Imprisonment

Update: On June 26th, Col. Lofton was sentenced. Update posted in green at the bottom of this post.

Remember U.S. Air Force Colonel Samuel Lofton III (pictured at left)? On my February 12th, 2008 post, which you can review for further background, Colonel Lofton, the former commander of the 82nd Training Group at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, TX, was undergoing an Article 32 hearing to determine if there was sufficient evidence to proceed with a possible general court martial against him. At the time, Colonel Lofton faced a total of 29 charges, including four counts of indecent assault, two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, 20 counts of larceny, two counts of dereliction of duty, and one count of absence without leave (AWOL) under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Apparently there was sufficient evidence, because the Air Force proceeded with his court-martial. And on June 25th, 2008, Colonel Lofton was acquitted of raping a civilian worker, but convicted of four counts of indecent assault and two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman involving two other women at Sheppard Air Force Base. Full story published in Newsweek, the Wichita Falls Times Record News, the Air Force Times, and KAUZ Channel 6 Wichita Falls (with video).

There's also a 12-page discussion thread on the forum dating back to February. The racial identity of the victims is not disclosed anywhere by any source. Hmmm...

Col. Lofton III would have faced up to life in prison had he been convicted of rape. However, he does face the possibility of over 100 years behind bars for the other charges. The two counts of indecent assault each carry a maximum sentence of five years, while the two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman carry a maximum sentence of one year. But in addition, Col. Lofton already pleaded guilty last week to 17 counts of larceny, 11 counts of being absent without leave, and two counts of dereliction of duty. All of this adds up. In addition, he will be dismissed from the Air Force, which totally nullifies his 27-year Air Force career. Col. Lofton chose not to take the stand during the court-martial.

The military jury of seven men and two women deliberated about five hours. The verdict did not have to be unanimous, only two-thirds had to agree.

There were two reasons why the rape charge didn't stand up. First, Colonel Lofton's lead defense attorney Maj. Mark Etheridge said the accuser's account of the rape was "impossible." She testified that Lofton spun her around, held her back down and with his other hand, pulled her skirt up and pantyhose down. She testified that after he asked to keep her pantyhose as a souvenir, she threw them at him after wiping herself.

In addition, Maj. Etheridege also reminded jurors about several friendly and flirtatious work e-mails she sent to Lofton after the alleged incidents, even after he was removed from his post. The fact that the military prosecutor, Capt. Brett Landry, had told jurors that the woman remained on friendly terms with Lofton because she was afraid of losing her job did not sway the jury. Apparently they felt a genuine rape victim would not have remained on friendly terms with a rapist. The rape victim's testimony is reported in greater detail on June 23rd in the Wichita Falls Times Record News, and it paints a picture of her acting more like a BCL than a "victim".

The Times Record News has grouped the stories relating to this case together in an archive. Click HERE to view all their previous stories, including accounts of each day's testimony.

When the verdicts were read, the woman who said she was raped ran out, while another civilian worker who had accused him of assault cried and hugged her relatives. Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment after the verdict.

And on Thursday June 26th, sentence was pronounced. Col. Lofton has been sentenced to nine years in prison, fined $14,000, and will forfeit all pay and allowances during his imprisonment. He will be dismissed from the service upon completion of his imprisonment.

In addition, assuming that sex offender registration laws remain intact, Lofton will have to register as a sex offender in most states after his release

In the interim, Lofton will be held at Sheppard AFB in a "house arrest" situation before being transferred to Barksdale Air Force Base, LA. There his case will be reviewed by the 2nd Air Force commander. Appeal of the conviction is automatic unless the perpetrator waives the appeal.

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