Investigation documents show that an Air Force general stripped of two stars and $60 thousand in annual-retirement pay feels his accuser is no more than a liar hell bent on enriching herself.
Gen. Arthur Lichte, who had been a four-star officer in charge of Air Force Mobility Command, was demoted in retirement to major general earlier this month following an investigation that found he had coerced a subordinate officer into sex on three separate occasions.
His accounts of the circumstances are quite different than the accuser and his lawyer feels his client is the real victim in the case.
According to USA Today, Lichte writes in his response to the allegation that her account of the relationship is “false.” In supporting documents to the investigation, his lawyer called Lichte the “victim” of a woman who sought to cash in on disability payments for sexual trauma from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also blasted the Air Force for not having a sworn statement from the woman to back her claims.
Even though the Air Force didn’t have a sworn statement, it didn’t prevent then Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James from chastising Lichte in her letter of reprimand calling his conduct “disgraceful” and but for the statute of limitations, worth prosecuting as a sex crime.
Lichte, himself not taking any blame for the relationship … even though he was married during the time … told Air Force inspector general investigators that he believed their three sexual encounters, two in 2007 and one in 2009, were consensual; she told them she felt coerced, although she did not protest at the time or struggle with him physically, according to USA Today.
“My client did not commit a sexual assault and vehemently denies the unsworn allegations made against him regarding consensual events that happened over eight years ago,” Larry Youngner, Lichte’s lawyer said in a statement.
The accused claims he is surprised this is happening to him at all … especially since he believes the sex was consensual.
Lichte said in a heavily redacted IG report, “he was surprised because it took two to tango and he thought for sure VICTIM (was) interested in (him), just as he was interested in her, and of course, on most of these occasions it happened when alcohol was involved.”
Secretary James’ feelings toward the extra-marital relationship aren’t only evident in the physical demotion, but also evident in the words she chose to describe his behavior.
“To have engaged in an unprofessional relationship, much less sexual acts, with a direct subordinate is intolerable and a severe breach of this special trust,” James wrote. “Your engagement in this misconduct both dishonored and disgraced you as a senior Air Force officer and leader and seriously compromised your standing as an officer. Your unbecoming conduct not only tarnishes your lengthy Air Force career, it brings disrepute on the Air Force.”
The USA Today story points out Lichte joins a roster of disgraced generals and admirals in the last year that includes Maj. Gen. David Haight, the “swinging general” whose serial promiscuity saw him get stripped of three ranks and cashiered from the Army. The Army also fired National Guard Brig. Gen. Michael Bobeck, a staff member for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for carrying on an extramarital affair And the Pentagon inspector general found that Army Lt. Gen. Ron Lewis, the top military aide to then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, put strip-club tabs on his government credit card, got drunk and had “improper interactions with females.”
This story tends to offer more questions than answers. As we reported earlier, how was the alleged victim in this case so traumatized that she had to bring this complaint forward six years after Lichte retired … but not traumatized enough to have brought it up before? Also, what if the victim did complain before 2016 but nothing was ever done? What if there was knowledge Lichte was using his position to stalk for extramarital sex partners?
Lichte’s attorney believes the accuser targeted “Lichte for her personal and financial gain, to include Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits in retirement.” He also said the woman stayed in touch with his client through mid-2016. She contacted him by email, phone and in at least one visit to the Tampa area to play golf and have dinner with him and his wife.
“She did not behave as though she had been sexually assaulted, but rather as one who enjoyed the spotlight of General (ret.) Lichte’s company and basked in his influence on her behalf when she requested his help,” Youngner wrote. “She did not cut off all contact as would be expected of someone experiencing trauma from a non-consensual assault years earlier.”
Lichte said in the report, “I was a very dedicated Airman,” and apparently feels that his service to country trumps his sexual indiscretion … even though extra-marital affairs are illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Lichte’s defense and his lawyer’s comments ring hollow with Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for victims of sexual assault in the military.
“It’s a common tactic to try to smear the victim,” said Christensen, who once served as the Air Force’s top prosecutor. USA Today reports he reviewed Lichte’s documents, which were released late last week.
The victim could not gain veterans benefits by making her claims to the Air Force; that determination is made by medical diagnosis, said Christensen. She is also bound by law to make truthful statements whether sworn or not, Christensen said.
Christensen scoffed at what he called the “I’m-a-Great-Guy” defense. Lichte has admitted to having sex outside marriage three times, a violation of military law, Christensen said.
Lichte said in the IG report that he regrets his actions, is sorry for the pain he has caused his family and asked for privacy, Youngner said.
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