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MTI's defense calls Welsh's comments unlawful

Feb. 11, 2013 - 06:28PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 11, 2013 - 06:28PM  |  
Air Force Staff Sgt. Craig LeBlanc is charged with sexual misconduct with two female trainees, violating a no-contact order, adultery and obstruction of justice.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Craig LeBlanc is charged with sexual misconduct with two female trainees, violating a no-contact order, adultery and obstruction of justice. ()
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The defense for the latest military training instructor to answer to sexual misconduct charges has asked the judge to dismiss the case against him due to "unlawful command influence" stemming from statements made by the Air Force chief of staff during a congressional hearing last month.

Staff Sgt. Craig Leblanc, whose court-martial was set to begin today, is accused of having sex with a female recruit who had just graduated from basic training.

Gen. Mark Welsh told members of the House Armed Services Committee Jan. 23 that MTIs found to have had a sexual relationship with a trainee do not belong in the Air Force. He made the statements while testifying at a hearing into a basic training scandal that so far has led to investigations of at least 32 trainers for misconduct ranging from contact with trainees over social media to rape.

"An individual who is serving as a military training instructor who has a relationship like this with a trainee has no place in our Air Force," Welsh said in response to a question by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif.

Speier has introduced a bill that would forbid consent as a defense for MTIs who have sexual relationships with trainees. She asked Welsh if he would support it. The chief said he could not say whether a trainee would be unable to consent under any circumstance.

"I don't know that. I can't judge that. And I think that's a little problematic under the law," he said.

Welsh said he supported any effort to remove from the military "someone who has that kind of relationship in an Air Force training program."

When making the motion for dismissal, the defense cited an Air Force Times article that quoted the chief, said Lackland spokesman Brent Boller. The defense argued that subordinate commanders could be unlawfully influenced based on those comments.

The judge in the case, Col. Donald R. Eller Jr., could rule on the motion tomorrow.

Leblanc is facing multiple charges, including aggravated sexual assault, having a wrongful sexual relationship with another trainee, obstruction of justice, making false official statements and adultery.

He did not enter pleas today, Boller said. He has asked to be tried by the judge, rather than a panel, or jury, of airmen.

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