Hill base personnel punished for sexual assaults
Two enlisted men from Hill Air Force Base who received dishonorable discharges are among the first to have their names published on a list meant to help address the military-wide problem of sexual assaults.
In a third case, a first lieutenant from Hill received a dismissal, which for officers is analogous to a dishonorable discharge, after being acquitted of rape but convicted of lesser crimes. The three are among 136 names the Air Force Judge Advocate General has published since 2012. The list is what the JAG calls "significant" sexual-assault convictions since the start of 2010 to Sept. 30. The Air Force is the only branch which publishes such a list.
The latest name was published last week. According to the case synopsis published with the list, Airman 1st Class Sergio Rosales was court-martialed in September for attempted rape, battery and communicating a threat. Rosales was sentenced to five years in prison, a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and reduction to airman basic. The synopsis says Rosales assaulted his wife three times and tried to rape her during one of the assaults.
In an earlier Hill case, Senior Airman Brent Snell was court-martialed for rape and sentenced to 15 years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and a reduction to airman basic. The synopsis says that in January 2009, a female and her friend were at a relative's house drinking. The victim invited Snell to the party but she passed out before he arrived. The woman said she remembered waking, saying no and biting Snell as hard as she could on his shoulders. She told a friend that morning she had been raped and her friend called police.
Also in 2010, 1st Lt. Brandon W. McClannahan was acquitted of aggravated sexual assault, but convicted of indecent acts and fraternization. He was sentenced to confinement for 30 days and received dismissal. The synopsis says that a woman subordinate who was a noncommissioned officer accused McClannahan of sexually assaulting her after a night of drinking with McClannahan and his wife.
Sexual assaults in the military have received attention from Congress and victim advocates across the country in recent years. Reports of sexual assaults across all branches increased by 46 percent during the past fiscal year, the Pentagon reported Thursday. In 2012, two Utah women were among 19 plaintiffs suing the Defense Department over the sexual assaults they say they suffered. The lawsuit was later dismissed.
Panayiota Bertzikis, a spokeswoman for the nationwide Military Rape Crisis Center, said publishing the names of offenders is fine, but the military needs to improve the conviction rates in sexual-assault cases.
Bertzikis favors a proposal in the U.S. Senate to remove sexual-assault complaints from the chain of command. In other words, victims would be able to report their assault to someone other than their superiors, and officers comprising the court-martial would not be in the suspect's chain of command.
"We have a lot of survivors not reporting because the people they are reporting to are the perpetrators themselves," Bertzikis said.
In recent months, the Air Force has tried to raise awareness about sexual assault and warn airmen of the consequences if they commit an assault. Last week's commander's editorial in the Hilltop Times, the newspaper serving Hill Air Force Base, warned about sexual assault and informed victims where they could seek help.
"We also must encourage personnel to feel comfortable coming forward with a problem, and they must know that it will be addressed," the editorial said. "By supporting victims of sexual assault, we are providing the resources for them to heal both physically and mentally and are reinforcing our commitment to the safety and well-being of our Air Force personnel."