Love life of Air Force colonel accused of rape on display in hearing
By TOM ROEDER | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 19, 2016
The complex love life of a top officer at Schriever Air Force Base was on display at a Friday hearing to determine if the colonel will face court-martial on charges including rape, adultery and taking a lewd photo in his office.
The alleged victims of Col. Eugene Marcus Caughey, former vice commander of the 50th Space Wing, were identified by their initials during the five-hour hearing, and at least a half-dozen came up in an alphabet soup that led to several pauses for clarification.
Caughey's civilian lawyer, Ryan Coward, labored to portray several of the women as spurned lovers, driven by rage after they learned of the married colonel's philandering ways.
"At the time she made the report she was upset with Col. Caughey," the hearing's sole witness, Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agent Tim Grantonic, said of one accuser.
Grantonic also testified that at least two of the women began asking their own questions, investigating the colonel's love life even as Air Force officials ran an official probe.
The case against Caughey started last year after an inspector general's probe led to a criminal investigation. Allegations date back to 2013.
One charge stems from a late 2014 incident at Schriever, where prosecutors allege Caughey raped a woman "while holding her against the wall and floor."
New allegations surfaced in court, including that the colonel contacted one of the women involved in the case Monday during a 3 a.m. visit to her home. That would violate a protection order placed against Caughey.
Hearing officer Col. Donna Holcombe said she's investigating whether an additional rape count and a charge of stalking should be added to the colonel's charge sheet, which also includes allegations that he had an unregistered firearm in his Schriever home and that he groped a woman and assaulted another.
The alleged misconduct is a strange departure for an officer at one of the Air Force's most secretive units. The 50th Space Wing's airmen work behind tight security to operate military satellites. In that highly classified world, an extramarital affair can lead to a lost security clearance - a career-ending consequence.
One theory for Caughey's actions was probed by investigators. Lawyers said the colonel was subjected to a psychological examination that determined he was mentally competent at the time of the alleged crimes and is able to participate in his defense.
Coward told the hearing officer that Caughey's sanity, though, could remain up for debate. The lawyer told Holcombe that he was reviewing a report on the colonel's mental health and felt that a military review panel hadn't considered files from Caughey's "civilian providers."
Much of the evidence against Caughey, who has been removed from the Schriever job and is working in a temporary post at Peterson's Air Force Space Command, was presented in reports that weren't publicly released.
A 23-year Air Force veteran, Caughey's responsibilities have included running a 22-nation missile defense war game in 2014 for U.S. Strategic Command. At Schriever, he was the No. 2 officer in the wing and was lauded as a survivor of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon in a story on the base's website.
Caughey showed little emotion during the hearing. But he blushed bright red as the charges against him were read. The colonel's defense team noted the colonel's apparent distress and waived further reading of the charges.
If the case is sent to court-martial, Caughey could face a maximum penalty of life. Holcombe is expected to spend several days pondering the evidence before issuing her recommendation, which could include dropping the charges against Caughey and administrative punishment in lieu of a court-martial.
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