drill instructor, charged with having sex with female trainees, appears in court with his wife at his side
Tawdry testimony concerning Air Force Staff Sergeant Luis Walker's relationships with several female trainees began to be aired on Monday as Walker's court martial began late Monday evening following several hours of delays, 1200 WOAI news reports.
One of Walker's ten alleged victims, identified only as 'Victim Number Six,' told the judge that Walker sent her lurid text messages, including one that showed him naked except for shorts and his familiar Air Force Military Training Instructor's hat.
According to court papers, Sgt. Walker allegedly asked if the photo "made her wet."
Despite objections from defense lawyers that the prosecution did not lay the foundation for the lurid photo, the judge allowed the prosecution to admit it as evidence.
The woman testified only for purposes of deciding whether the photo should be admitted. Opening arguments and the first actual testimony are expected today.
Lawyers for Walker debated motions and traded objections in a courtroom at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Monday, as the high stakes trial of the basic training instructor charged with having sexual relations with trainees began.
Walker, wearing his blue Air Force dress uniform, spoke only briefly in the courtroom, to acknowledge his presence and tell the judge he had no questions about the proceedings. Walker sat at the defense table with his wife directly behind in the gallery. One of the charges he is facing as adultery, which is a felony under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The Air Force prosecution team and Walker’s three attorneys, two military and one civilian, debated such questions as whether one of Walker’s 10 alleged victims can testify via video hook up since she had a baby earlier this month.
Prosecutors didn’t say whether the baby is Walker’s child, but a review of the dates show it's not likely. He was taken off duty and ordered to have no contact with the victims in June of 2011.
Some of the arguments took place out of the courtroom, something which is very unusual under military court rules, indicating the seriousness of this case.
Walker is facing a total of 28 counts, including rape, sexual assault, and attempted sexual assault of a total of ten female recruits and faces life in prison if convicted.
His case opened a floodgate of allegations of misconduct between trainees and Military Training Instructors at Lackland, which is the home of all Air Force enlisted basic training. Five other instructors have been hit with criminal charges, another six are under investigation, 31 women have come forward to say they were victims of improper sexual contact by their drill sergeant, and 35 instructors and one squadron commander have been removed from their posts.
Walker is charged with having sexual relations with four of the ten trainees, who are only being identified by number. He is also charged with ‘flirting’ with female trainees, sending them sexually explicit text messages, making inappropriate comments like telling one woman to ‘get naked,’ and forcing one trainee to touch his genitals. He allegedly threatened some of the women, telling them that he would damage their military careers if they reported on his conduct.
Col. Polly Kenny, a spokesperson with the Staff Judge Advocate for the Second Air Force, says no physical contact between trainers and recruits is ever allowed.
“There is no time when an instructor should touch a trainee,” Kenny told reporters before the start of today’s proceedings, saying it would affect the ‘necessary imbalance of power.’
“That power imbalance has to be in place to conduct the training mission, in order to turn the sons and daughters who come to use into airmen of character.”
Kenny said all ten of Walker’s alleged victims are expected to testify, and she said the prosecution’s case should take ‘five to six days.’ Lead defense attorney Joseph Esparza hasn’t commented on what Walker’s defense will be, or whether he will ask Walker to testify.
Walker is the first Lackland drill sergeant to stand trial in connection with the case, which has ballooned into a major sex scandal facing the Air Force and has prompted calls for Congressional investigations and a re-examination of how military basic training is conducted. Another sergeant pled guilty and four others are awaiting court martial. Walker is, however, facing the most serious charges.
Walker is being tried by a seven member panel of officers and enlisted personnel. Two are officers. One of the jurors is a female. None are Military Training Instructors.
Under military court rules, two thirds of the panel is needed to convict Walker, unlike in a civilian jury trial, where the verdict must be unanimous.