Osan officer admits improper relationship
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Lawyers made opening arguments Wednesday in the court-martial of an Air Force lieutenant colonel accused of carrying on a sexual relationship with a female staff sergeant and an improper relationship with a second female airman.
Lt. Col. Anthony R. Williams of the 51st Maintenance Group is charged with dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman and wrongful interference with an adverse administrative proceeding.
Late Tuesday, Williams pleaded guilty to the dereliction of duty charge involving use of a government computer and e-mail system, and to engaging in a wrongful relationship with the staff sergeant.
However, Williams pleaded innocent to the other charges, including the alleged improper relationship with another female airman in 2002. But Williams’ lawyer Wednesday countered that the relationship did not “rise to the level” of a breach of military law.
Penalties could range from administrative punishments such as a reprimand or restriction to base, to imprisonment and dismissal from the Air Force.
According to prosecutors and witness testimony, the relationship with the female staff sergeant last year entailed sexual trysts at the Dragon Hill Lodge on Yongsan Garrison in Seoul and at Williams’ quarters here.
In addition, prosecutors accused Williams of using a government computer and government e-mail system for some of his contacts with the women, and asking one of the women to lie to Air Force investigators who later probed the e-mail traffic.
Prosecutors also accused Williams of violating his commander’s order to cease contact with the staff sergeant.
The e-mail traffic was discovered in June when an airman in the 51st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, which Williams commanded at that time, came into the office on a Saturday and found a nine-page printout of the e-mails near an office printer. He reported it to authorities; an investigation began and on June 18, the then-commander of the 51st Maintenance Group issued a no-contact order barring Williams from associating with the woman.
On Wednesday, the prosecution pointed to one e-mail exchange in which the staff sergeant e-mailed Williams an Amazon.com link to a book describing techniques for performing oral sex.
The prosecutor, Capt. Karen Hennigan of Osan’s base legal office, said Williams responded, “I ain’t readin’ no book. You’re gonna have to show me step-by-step.”
In charging Williams with dereliction of duty, prosecutors said he used a government computer and e-mail system to send personal messages to the two female airmen in pursuit of “unprofessional relationships” with them. The charge covered accusations of misconduct from Oct. 17, 2002, to June 18, 2003.
Under the charge of conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman, prosecutors accused Williams of engaging in an unprofessional relationship with the staff sergeant, “on multiple occasions” from May 26 to June 18, and of misconduct with another female airman from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15, 2002.
They called Williams’ alleged violation of the commander’s no-contact order another instance of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
Under their final charge of wrongful interference with an adverse administrative proceeding, prosecutors accused Williams of asking the staff sergeant to lie to Air Force investigators looking into case.
The Air Force is trying Williams under its rules for general courts-martial, before a military judge and a seven-member jury of four colonels and three lieutenant colonels. The judge is Air Force Col. Anne Burman, circuit military judge for the Western Judicial Circuit in California.
Representing Williams are civilian attorney Frank J. Spinner of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Capt. Stacey Vetter, circuit defense counsel currently assigned to the Air Force government appellate division in Washington, D.C.; and Capt. Doug Rawald, Area Defense Counsel from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.
Testifying under a grant of immunity, the staff sergeant, now 36, said she first met Williams during the 2003 Memorial Day weekend when they rode a bus to Seoul. She was there to attend an Omega fraternity event, which included a boat ride that offered food, drinks and dancing. The staff sergeant stayed at the Dragon Hill Lodge during that time, she testified.
Later, at Osan Air Base, their acquaintance continued, involving phone and e-mail contacts and visits to Williams’ quarters and to her dorm room, she testified. At the time, she was assigned to the 51st Security Forces Squadron.
The trial was set to resume Thursday morning.