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23rd MTI convicted in misconduct scandal

Jun. 28, 2013 - 02:09PM   |  
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A former military training instructor was convicted Thursday in a special court-martial at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and another will stand trial Monday in a series of sexual misconduct cases that has rocked the military.

Senior Airman Andrew S. Lira was sentenced today to six months of confinement, 30 days hard labor, reduction to E-1 and forfeiture of $1,200 after pleaded guilty yesterday to having sex with a basic trainee and attempting to have sexual or inappropriate relationships with seven technical trainees.

Lira was the second former trainer convicted in a week. On Wednesday, Senior Airman Christopher Oliver was sentenced to two years in prison, reduction to airman basic and a dishonorable discharge for having sex with three basic trainees, an improper relationship with a fourth, wrongful sexual contact, consensual sodomy, dereliction of duty and adultery.

On Monday, Tech. Sgt. Brian P. Hickingbottom Jr. will answer to charges he had unprofessional relationships with three technical training students and obstructed justice. He is accused of telling two of them he was under investigation and asking them to lie if they were questioned. Hickingbottom faces a maximum punishment of a year behind bars and a bad conduct discharge. If found guilty, the total number of MTIs convicted since the scandal first unfolded in June 2011 will stand at two dozen.

The Air Force has said 33 ex-instructors have been accused of some kind of misconduct involving trainees. Two have been convicted of rape. Many of the cases involved no physical contact but rather inappropriate exchanges over social media such as Facebook.

In the Lira case this week, a former basic trainee testified he started acting differently toward her when she was transferred to a medical hold squadron for an ankle injury, said Brent Boller, Lackland spokesman. Lira was friendly and complimented her when she was talking about an ex-boyfriend, she said. The woman testified his comments drew her to him. She visited his flight on several occasions; during one visit, they had sex in the women’s latrine. They began a relationship that eventually ended after the woman was medically discharged from the Air Force and returned to her home in another state.

The sentencing phase of Lira’s court-martial was set to resume this morning.

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