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Monday, October 01, 2018

Air Force Colonel John Howard - False Sexual Assault Allegation and Court-Martial Dropped

It has been widely reported today that my client, Air Force Colonel John Howard, reached a "plea deal" in his case.  That is not technically accurate.

While it is true that the court-martial and false sexual assault allegation against him were dropped, there was no "plea deal" that required him to plead guilty to something in exchange for something.  We arrived at a pretrial agreement in Col Howard's case in which he agreed to accept an administrative Article 15 and the government agreed to drop the court-martial.  The Article 15 did not allege sexual assault...because there was no sexual assault, period.

Here is one such media article:

Below is the entirety of the defense press release, which details the circumstances of the resolution of the case and the defense exposing how Col Howard had been falsely accused of sexual assault:


Based on what was left out of the Air Force press release, the defense feels compelled to clarify the circumstances of the resolution of this case.  There was no sexual assault in this case, period.  The Convening Authority did the right thing by not only dropping the court-martial charges, but by dropping the sexual assault allegation from the subsequent Article 15.  As indicated in the Air Force press release, Col Howard was not even accused of sexual assault in the Article 15 he accepted - because that allegation was false.  As stated in the Air Force press release, the Article 15 alleged Conduct Unbecoming and Fraternization. 

While the complainant, through her attorney, indicated that she did not wish to proceed to trial in Col Howard's case, the circumstances of that decision were left out of the Air Force press release.  Prior to the scheduled Article 32 hearing, the defense had uncovered evidence and witnesses that clearly refuted the complainant's sexual assault claim.  This included communications directly from the complainant to Col Howard after the date of the alleged incident that left no reasonable doubt that the sexual assault allegation was false. 

The defense was prepared to present this evidence and the witnesses at the Article 32 hearing, and we served notice of this on the complainant's attorney and the government.  After that, the complainant's counsel submitted the letter indicating that the complainant did not wish to participate further in the case, and the Article 32 hearing was canceled and the court-martial case was dropped.

The sexual assault allegation in this case was highly publicized, so we hope the fact that there was no sexual assault will be of equal interest to the press.  Regardless, now Col Howard and his family can begin to heal from the very public airing of this false sexual assault allegation.

Finally, it is important to understand that while Col Howard accepted an Article 15 in this case, he did not agree with the facts alleged on the Article 15.  Some press outlets have published the facts alleged on the Article 15, but when the Air Force provided these alleged facts to the press, they failed to mention that we submitted a comprehensive defense against the Article 15 - citing witnesses and evidence - to argue that the facts alleged against Col Howard were solely based on the word of the complainant...and we had already established that her word was not to believed.  That's what resulted in the false sexual assault allegation being dropped in the first place.  As such, her word should not have formed the basis for the Article 15 allegations either.  

In addition, in our Article 15 defense we challenged the objectivity of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), and cited specific examples of what we considered to be serious problems with their skewed investigation and biased interviewing of the complainant.  In our argument, we pointed to clear instances of the agents acting more like advocates of the complainant than law enforcement agents who should have been objectively investigating allegations.  That, of course, is what happens when your investigation begins with the flawed premise of "Believe the Complainant."  While that may be entirely appropriate in a therapy context, it is never appropriate in a law enforcement or court process.  In this case, the complainant was not to be believed after all.  

By:  Attorney Richard V. Stevens
Civilian criminal defense lawyer and military defense lawyer

Military Defense Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens, P.C.

Blog postscript: I (attorney Richard V. Stevens) am a former active duty military lawyer (JAG). My perspectives and advice, therefore, are based upon my experience as military defense lawyer and as a civilian criminal defense lawyer practicing exclusively in the area of military law and military justice. This blog addresses issues in military law, military justice, military discipline, military defense, court-martial practice, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and other military and/or legal topics. Nothing posted in this blog should be substituted for legal advice in any particular case. If you seek legal advice for a particular case, please contact The Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens for a free consultation. These military defense law offices are located in the Washington DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland, National Capital Region (NCR), but the military defense representation is worldwide – when necessary, the attorneys travel to wherever the client is stationed around the world.

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