Air Force instructor convicted of rape, assault

WILL WEISSERT
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Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Walker arrives for the fourth day of his trial at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Friday, July 20, 2012. Walker is accused of sexually assaulting 10 basic trainees, with charges ranging from rape and aggravated sexual assault to obstructing justice and violating rules of professional conduct. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express News, Billy Calzada)

Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Walker arrives for the fourth day of his trial at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Friday, July 20, 2012. Walker is accused of sexually assaulting 10 basic trainees, with charges ranging from rape and aggravated sexual assault to obstructing justice and violating rules of professional conduct. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express News, Billy Calzada)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — An Air Force instructor was convicted in military court Friday of raping one female recruit and sexually assaulting several others, giving prosecutors a victory in the first trial over alleged widespread sexual misconduct by military trainers at a busy Texas base.

A seven-person jury of military personnel at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio found Staff Sgt. Luis Walker guilty on all seven counts he faced, including rape, aggravated sexual contact and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault. He faces up to life in prison and a dishonorable discharge at his sentencing hearing, which starts Saturday.

The jury deleted a clause from two counts that accused Walker of making flirtatious and lewd comments to trainees. However, it upheld the overall counts containing the deleted clauses, which accused him of trying to cultivate a sexual relationship with two trainees.

Walker showed no emotion at hearing the verdict. Afterward, he left the court and was met by his father and other relatives, some of whom were crying. He will remain free pending sentencing.

Walker is among 12 Lackland instructors investigated for sexual misconduct toward at least 31 female trainees. Six instructors have been charged on counts ranging from rape to adultery. Walker faced the most serious charges and was the first to stand trial.

Lackland is where every American airman receives basic training. It has about 475 instructors for the approximately 35,000 airmen who graduate every year. About one in five is female, pushed through eight weeks of basic training by a group of instructors, 90 percent of whom are men.

Several of Walker's alleged victims testified during his court-martial, including one airman who described how Walker lured her into an office and sexually assaulted her on a bed, ignoring her pleas to stop.

The women told jurors that Walker gained their trust to get them alone in his office or an empty dormitory where he forced them into kissing, touching and intercourse. Those testifying said they didn't tell anybody at first because they feared being booted from the Air Force.

The Associated Press is not naming those who testified because they are alleged sexual assault victims.

Meanwhile, the case of another former Air Force training instructor has been referred to a general court-martial, according to an Air Force statement issued Friday evening.

Staff Sgt. Craig LeBlanc is charged with sexual misconduct, obstructing justice and making a false official statement. He is accused of using his post as a military instructor to sexually assault and pursue a sexual relationship with one female trainee, and have a wrongful sexual relationship with another. No trial date has been set.