U.S. Air Force engineer sentenced to 15 months after reporting sexual assault
A flight engineer, who accused the US air force of prosecuting him in retaliation for reporting a sexual assault, was dismissed from the military and sentenced to 15 months in prison on Tuesday.
Lieutenant Adam Cohen, 29, of the 18th air force, pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators, criminal offences akin to federal wiretapping, sexual harassment, and “conduct unbecoming an officer” including sexual misconduct that occurred before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the law that forced gay and lesbian members of the military to keep their sexuality secret
Questions were raised about the prosecution by senators, advocates groups and the special victims counsel the air force employed to help him when he reported an allegation of sexual assault.
During the investigation into that allegation, the air force says, new information emerged which led to Cohen himself being prosecuted.
Major John Bellflower, Cohen’s special victims counsel, said on Wednesday: “None of this would have happened had not Lt Cohen come forward with an allegation of sexual assault. It is because of this we are where we are today and because of that he is behind bars.”
Cohen’s 15-month sentence was considerably lower than the maximum he could have faced. Each of five charges against him, the majority of which had several sub-charges, carried a maximum potential sentence of between two and 35 years.
A dozen related charges, or parts of charges, were dropped by the government as a result of a pre-trial agreement.
Cohen told the Guardian days before his trial that he had decided to plead guilty because he did not want to face his alleged attacker in court. He also said that he expected a guilty plea would cap his potential sentence at 15 months.
After his court martial on Tuesday, Cohen was held at a military facility at McConnell air base, in Wichita, Kansas. He is expected to be transferred to a military prison.
Lt Col Linell Letendre, a legal expert for the air force, told the Guardian: “Lt Cohen pled guilty to 15 different specifications of criminal wrongdoing.”That plea was accepted by the military judge. “The very thing he complained of, he pled guilty to and was found guilty of,” Letendre said.
Bellflower said as far as he was aware, there is still an active army investigation into the alleged rape of Cohen by an army major four years ago. It was passed to the army from the air force, as it has jurisdiction over the alleged perpetrator.
The major is now immune from prosecution because the statute of limitations has expired.
By the time of publication, the army was not able to provide details of the investigation.
[“U.S. air force uniform with blank dog tags” via Shutterstock]