Air Force instructor Staff Sgt. Luis Walker was convicted in military court Friday of raping a female recruit and sexually assaulting several other women, with the seven-person military jury finding him guilty on all seven counts he faced.
Walker, whose sentencing hearing starts Saturday, could potentially spend the rest of his life in prison, in addition to dishonorable discharge.
His case was the first in a web of accusations of sexual misconduct by military trainers at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. A total of 12 Lackland instructors are being investigated for sexual misconduct toward at least 31 female trainees. Of the six instructors who have been charged on counts ranging from rape to adultery, Walker’s charges were the most serious and he was the first to stand trial.
The entire network of sexual assault and misconduct is considered especially troubling and heinous because of the key role that Lackland plays in the American military. Every American airman receives basic training at Lackland, which has about 475 instructors for the approximately 35,000 airmen and women who graduate every year. About one in five is female, pushed through eight weeks of basic training by a group of instructors, 90 percent of whom are men.
The Lackland case raises continuing questions about the military’s readiness to appropriately deal with a co-ed environment.
During the court martial, the jury heard from several of Walker’s victims, including one woman who said Walker lured her into an office and proceeded to sexually assault her on a bed while she pleaded with him to stop.
The women told jurors that Walker gained their trust to get them alone in his office or an empty dormitory where he forced them into kissing, touching and intercourse. They were afraid at first to tell anyone because they thought they would get kicked out of the Air Force.
Walker showed no emotion at hearing the verdict. Afterward, he left the court and was met by his father and other relatives, some of whom were crying. He will remain free pending sentencing.
Next up for court martial will be Staff Sgt. Craig LeBlanc, who is charged with sexual misconduct, obstructing justice and making a false official statement. He is accused of using his post as a military instructor to sexually assault and pursue a sexual relationship with one female trainee, and have a wrongful sexual relationship with another. No trial date has been set.