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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Military officials say the initial flirtations that Staff Sgt. Luis Walker directed at the women he trained at an Air Forcebase in Texas grew into something more sinister: threats and intimidation that eventually led to rape.
Sgt. Walker is among 12 instructors at Lackland Air ForceBase in San Antonio who are being investigated in a widening sex scandal that has rocked one of the nation’s busiest military training centers.
Sgt. Walker's court-martial is scheduled to begin Monday.
He faces the most serious charges in the case — 28 counts, including rape, aggravated sexual contact and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault. He could get up to life in prison and a dishonorable discharge if convicted.
The 10 female recruits Sgt. Walker is accused of either sexually assaulting or engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct with are expected to testify during the court-martial at Lackland. A seven-member jury made up of military personnel will decide the case.
At least 31 female trainees have been identified as victims in the sex scandal.
Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward also has launched a separate, independent investigation that military prosecutors say could sweep up more airmen.
Advocates for female service members and members of Congress have started taking notice.
“It’s a pretty big scandal the Air Force is having to deal with at this point,” Greg Jacob, a former Marine infantry officer and policy director of the Service Women’s Action Network, said last month. “It’s pretty substantial in its scope.”
The start of the court-martial Monday is expected to mostly deal with procedural matters. Testimony in the case is not likely to begin until Tuesday.
The sexual misconduct at the base apparently began in 2009, but the first woman didn’t come forward until last year. The first allegations were levied against Sgt. Walker, who is accused of crimes that allegedly took place between October 2010 and January 2011.
According to the Air Force charge sheet, Sgt. Walker had sexual intercourse with 4 of the 10 female recruits. He also is accused of making flirtatious or sexually suggestive comments, sending inappropriate text messages and sometimes groping his recruits.
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