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Air Force Clears Officers in Cadet Scandal

After announcing his resignation, the acting secretary sparks outcry with a memo absolving top brass in the academy sex assault debacle.

April 02, 2005|From Associated Press

DENVER — Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) has condemned a memo from the acting secretary of the Air Force to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld clearing senior Air Force officers of any responsibility for the sex assault scandal at the Air Force Academy.

Peter B. Teets, acting secretary, sent the memo in late March, a few days after announcing his resignation. Teets said he reviewed the findings of the Defense Department's inspector general and a report of an independent commission.

"I accept the inspector general's findings on which officers are not responsible for failure to identify and address the academy's sexual assault problems," Teets said in the memo. The inspector general's report singled out officers who were retired, and Teets said taking disciplinary action against them would be unwarranted.

"If the Air Force's hope was to send this out on an Easter weekend in hopes of making this go away, I think they erred very badly," said Sean Conway, chief of staff to Allard.

"Sen. Allard has said from Day One that at the end of the day there had to be accountability here," Conway said. "I don't think we've seen the end of this."

Lawyer Joseph J. Madonia, who represents seven women who allege they were assaulted as cadets and then punished for reporting the attacks, also criticized the memo on the scandal.

"The failure to hold anybody accountable for it does a tremendous disservice to not only the victims but the American public," Madonia said.

He said the military was trying to sweep the scandal under the rug and said the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee had not held a hearing promised in late 2003 to hear from sexual assault victims at the academy.

Teets told the Denver Post that he knew criticism over his memo was coming. He told the newspaper he did not interview anyone connected to the rape cases, including alleged victims, but said, in retrospect, that doing so would have been a reasonable step.

He defended decisions to not discipline former commanders, including Brig. Gen. S. Taco Gilbert III, who was repeatedly accused of discouraging female cadets from pursuing criminal cases.

"Very frankly, I think this whole situation is somewhat despicable," Teets told the Denver Post. "I thought of these women's statements. I agonized through the whole situation. Still, I didn't find that there were actions taken or not taken because of neglect or that he or anyone else weren't trying to take care of a situation [properly].".

In his memo, Teets said the officers involved acted in good faith, and the academy's confidentiality policy had complicated matters.

That didn't satisfy Vincent Mountjoy-Pepka. His daughter Kira is one of Madonia's clients. "This is the greatest unchecked crime spree that's ever taken place," Mountjoy-Pepka said. "They're all cowards. They're hiding behind false investigations."

An independent commission blamed Gilbert, the former commandant of cadets; the former 34th Training Group commander, Col. Laurie Sue Slavec; and the former dean of faculty, Brig. Gen. David A. Wagie, for contributing to the problems.

Teets did not name any officers in his memo.

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