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Air Force boot-camp instructor sentenced to prison in sex scandal

September 13, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Basic trainees march to the parade grounds for their graduation from on Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
Basic trainees march to the parade grounds for their graduation from on… (Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo )

A military jury at San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force Base sentenced a boot camp instructor to a year in prison after finding him guilty on charges of having an unprofessional relationship with a trainee, violating an order from his commander and obstructing justice.

Staff Sgt. Kwinton Estacio, 29, had faced up to 13 years in prison.

The jury imposed the sentence late Wednesday. Earlier in the day, jurors acquitted Estacio of unwanted sexual contact, Lackland spokesman Brent Boller told The Times. A military judge had reduced the original charge from sexual assault, under which Estacio could have faced up to 43 years in prison.

On Monday, he pleaded guilty to the two charges. The jury also found him guilty of them. At the time, he admitted to the military judge that he had sex with a female trainee, identified only as Airman 1, and conspired to obstruct an Air Force investigation by urging her not to cooperate, Boller said.

Estacio told the judge that he kissed the woman and performed oral sex on her, Boller said. He also admitted violating an order by meeting with two other trainers also under investigation and talking about their cases, Boller said.

In addition to the prison sentence, the jury stripped Estacio of his rank, reducing him to private, the lowest enlisted rank, and issued him a bad conduct discharge, Boller said.

Estacio was taken into custody to begin serving his sentence late Wednesday, Boller said.

Estacio was the fourth Lackland instructor to stand trial in recent months for alleged illicit sexual encounters with trainees. So far, 17 trainers have been investigated; three have been convicted or pleaded guilty -- two of unprofessional relationships and a third of rape, Boller said.

Also Wednesday, a spokesman for Rep. Howard P. ‘‘Buck’’ McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) announced that the House Armed Services Committee, which he chairs, plans to hold hearings about the Lackland sex scandal once prosecutions have concluded.

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