Sex-abuse case brings airman to Lackland court

By SIG CHRISTENSON | San Antonio Express-News | Published: January 14, 2014

SAN ANTONIO — A once-promising Air Force photographer accused of sexual misconduct with three high school students and of rape in a separate incident was arraigned Monday.

Airman 1st Class Nathan G. Wilson-Crow stood with his military lawyers to face the judge, who convened the hearing via teleconference.

“Airman 1st Class Nathan G. Wilson-Crow, I ask how do you plead?” Col. Donald Eller Jr. said from a Barksdale AFB, La., courtroom.

The airman's attorneys opted to not offer a plea on five charges and 11 specifications that could carry a life sentence. The lawyers, who are allowed to defer the plea, asked Eller for a closed-door hearing. The judge then cleared a conference room at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

The arraignment set the stage for a court-martial next week in San Antonio. It will be the latest high-stakes trial here in an ongoing sex scandal that has become the worst in the Air Force's history.

So far, 34 instructors have been investigated for misconduct with 68 recruits and technical training students at Lackland. Twenty-six trainers have been convicted, with one getting 20 years in prison.

Wilson-Crow is accused of exposing himself to female students from O'Connor High School. The Air Force said one girl, identified as Victim 1, was under 16 when the incident occurred at Camp Eagle near Rocksprings, about 100 miles northwest of San Antonio. He also is charged with fondling a woman identified as Victim 2 in front of the girl.

The incidents occurred between April 26 and April 28. The Air Force also accuses Wilson-Crow, 22, of inappropriate contact with another woman, Victim 3.

The Air Force said he raped a woman identified as Victim 4 that summer and also illegally provided her with alcohol.

The Air Force called Wilson-Crow a “volunteer” at Camp Eagle and said no program existed that allowed its personnel to go to camps such as the one involving the O'Connor students.

No criminal background check had been done on Wilson-Crow as required by Northside Independent School District, and he had not been authorized to be with the students. Only one of three required adult chaperones were on the weekend trip, while the two others backed out.

The founder of the O'Connor ROTC program, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Payne, facilitated the visit by Wilson-Crow, who was assigned to Lackland's 3rd Combat Camera Squadron.

Payne, a 2009 “First-Year Teacher of the Year,” reported the allegations after a parent told him of inappropriate behavior between an airman and two or more of the students. He was suspended with pay and later reinstated, Northside Independent School District spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said.

Eller set court-martial for Jan. 21 at Lackland, but the trial could be delayed after an expected motions hearing that would start the proceedings.

It wasn't clear if the rape victim would testify. She did not attend Monday's hearing, and a prosecutor wouldn't say what he expected next.

This image of a couple embracing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on March 17, 2012, was taken by Nathan G. Wilson-Crow, a prize-winning Air Force photographer who is charged with rape and with sexual assault.


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