Air Force Maj. Gen. Phillip Stewart leaves a courthouse at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in January 2024.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Phillip Stewart leaves a courthouse at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in January 2024. (Rose L. Thayer/Stars and Stripes )

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas — Maj. Gen. Phillip Stewart pleaded guilty Monday morning to two of the lesser charges against him just before opening arguments were to begin in his court-martial for sexual assault of a subordinate officer.

The two-star Air Force general pleaded guilty to pursuing an unprofessional relationship with a subordinate officer and adultery during the motions hearing that began at 8:30 a.m. in a courtroom at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

However, Stewart did plead not guilty to the remaining charges against him: two counts of sexual assault, dereliction of duty for flying a training aircraft within 12 hours of drinking alcoholic beverages and conduct unbecoming an officer.

The general is accused of sexual assault and flying an aircraft after drinking at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma in April 2023, according to the charge sheet.

The pursuit of an unprofessional relationship stretched between March and May 2023, according to authorities. This violated an Air Education and Training Command regulation in place since 2020.

Stewart acknowledged Monday that the sexual encounter occurred when he pleaded guilty to adultery. At the time of the encounter at Altus AFB, Stewart was married, but it was noted during the court hearing that he is now divorced.

For pleading guilty to the charges, Stewart faces punishment of forfeiture of pay, a reprimand or up to 18 months in prison.

Stewart requested a court-martial by jury panel for the remaining charges. The trial will begin Monday with military judge Col. Matthew Stoffel. The jury must consist of officers of equal or greater rank than Stewart.

A selection of eight jurors ended Saturday night with six men and two women chosen to serve during a trial that is expected to last through the week.

At the time of the charges, Stewart commanded the 19th Air Force — the unit responsible for pilot training within Air Education and Training Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Air Force Base.

Lt. Gen. Brian Robinson, commander of the training command, fired Stewart in May and decided last year to move forward with the court-martial despite a report from a hearing in October recommending against it.

author picture
Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now