- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2015

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, North Dakota — An attorney for Tech. Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II ripped Air Force prosecutors Thursday for taking the military’s war on sexual assault “too far” by essentially criminalizing boorish behavior.

“Tech. Sgt. Allmon may be rude, he may be crass, he may be a harsh critic,” Air ForceCapt. Carman Leone said. “But the evidence will show this man is not a criminal.”

Capt. Leone’s statement ushered in a day of testimony from witnesses who challenged the motives and biases of the four women whose accusations led to charges against Sgt. Allmon of sexual harassment, inappropriate touching and inappropriate comments of a sexual natural.

If convicted on the seven charges, the 39-year-old Sgt. Allmon could face up to 15 years in prison. The court-martial, which began Monday, is expected to continue Friday.

Sgt. Allmon is an award-winning combat photographer with 19 years of service who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with special operations troops and Army ground forces and won a series of commendations for his actions in battle. His combat photos are conspicuous on the Internet, capturing Air Force fighters in action and soldiers patrolling Iraq’s mean streets.

Capt. Leone described the accusers as “a group of complaining witnesses” with an “ax to grind” against Sgt. Allmon, who arrived in Minot in 2012 to work in the public affairs office.

The military has “taken the sanctuary and shield of the [Sexual Assault Prevention Response] program and turned it into a sword,” said Capt. Leone, adding that the case shows that “the SAPR sword has swung too far.”

Testifying by video from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Lt. Jamila Edgerson said she considered one of women, a staff sergeant who accused Sgt. Allmon of brushing her shorts upward to see her hip tattoo, to be an “untruthful person” known for gossiping.

Maj. Genieve David, who previously headed the public affairs office, where three of the women worked with Sgt. Allmon, said she considered another accuser, a civilian, to be generally “untruthful” in her dealings.

At one point, Maj. David said, she confronted the woman about office gossip and told her, “I need it to stop.” Another time, the woman began crying in her office after an argument with Sgt. Allmon over articles and photographs, said Maj. David.

The woman testified previously that Sgt. Allmon had brushed his hand up her inner thigh, but Master Sgt. Richard Martin said Thursday that she told him the touch was just above her knee. He added that his investigation found no sexual harassment.

“Throughout the investigation, I couldn’t really substantiate anything that was said,” Sgt. Martin testified. He agreed that it was a “he said, she said” situation.

Jeffre Nagan, a former captain who headed the public affairs office before Maj. David, said it was common to see the woman upset. She previously said that Sgt. Allmon invited her by text to his house one night when his wife was out, but an investigator said Thursday that a search of his cellphone, including deleted texts, found no such message.

Prosecutors fought the defense testimony by pointing out that Maj. David allowed the woman to babysit her child and that Lt. Edgerson had given the staff sergeant a high personnel review despite her concerns.

Former Sgt. Keith Ballard said a female service member complained after Sgt. Allmon asked for her “bust size” in relation to a photo shoot, but agreed he had “made a mistake” when confronted and promised to apologize.

Supervisors said they struggled to maintain a professional atmosphere in the tumultuous public affairs office staffed by young airmen getting their first taste of military life. At one point, Maj. David said, she banned all discussion of politics, religion and sexual innuendo.

Mr. Nagan wound up with a revolt on his hands after he assigned Sgt. Allmon to implement a physical training program to prepare staffers in the event of combat duty. The staffers drafted and signed a petition against the plan.

Mr. Nagan said Sgt. Allmon called it a “mutinous event” and that he agreed with him. Even so, the episode led to a letter of counseling and then a letter of reprimand for Mr. Nagan, which he said resulted in his departure from the military as part of a reduction in force.

Defense attorneys also brought witnesses who were in the vicinity when some of the reported sexual violations occurred but noticed nothing amiss. For example, one female service member accused Sgt. Allmon of grabbing her rear end during a convoy exercise, but the convoy commander, who rode in the cramped Bearcat armored vehicle with them, said he witnessed nothing out of the ordinary.

If he had, “There definitely would have been a serious conversation between Sgt. Allmon and myself at that point,” said Capt. Gregory Goodman.

“Not in your Bearcat?” asked Capt. Leone. Responded Capt. Goodman, “Not in my Air Force.”

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