SAN ANTONIO (AP) - An Air Force instructor was convicted Friday of rape and sexual assault in a massive sex scandal that has rocked a Texas base, one of the nation's busiest military training centers.
A seven-person jury of military personnel at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio found Staff Sgt. Luis Walker guilty on all seven counts he faced, including rape, aggravated sexual contact and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault.
The jury deleted a clause from two counts that accused Walker of making flirtatious and lewd comments to trainees. However, it upheld the overall counts containing the deleted clauses, which accused him of trying to cultivate a sexual relationship with two trainees.
He faces up to life in prison and a dishonorable discharge. Testimony will begin Saturday in the sentencing phase of the trial.
Walker is among 12 Lackland instructors investigated for sexual misconduct toward at least 31 female trainees. Six instructors have been charged, on counts ranging from rape to adultery, and Walker was the first to stand trial. He faced the most serious charges of all those accused.
Lackland is where every American airman receives basic training. It has about 475 instructors for the approximately 35,000 airmen who graduate every year. About one in five is female, pushed through eight weeks of basic training by a group of instructors, 90 percent of whom are men.
Opening statements began Tuesday and Walker's case included testimony from several of his alleged victims, including one woman who wiped away tears as she told the court that Walker lured her into an office and sexually assaulted her on a bed while ignoring her pleas to stop.
The women told jurors that Walker gained their trust to get them alone in his office or an empty dormitory where he forced them into kissing, touching and intercourse. Those testifying said they didn't tell anybody at first because they feared being booted from the Air Force.
The Associated Press is not naming those who testified because they are alleged sexual assault victims.
Meanwhile, the case of another former Air Force training instructor has been referred to a general court-martial, according to an Air Force statement issued Friday evening.
Staff Sgt. Craig LeBlanc is charged with sexual misconduct, obstructing justice and making a false official statement. He is accused of using his post as a military instructor to sexually assault and pursue a sexual relationship with one female trainee, and have a wrongful sexual relationship with another. No trial date has been set.
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