Air Force Trainer Convicted Of Rape May Walk Free Over 'Judge Error'

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Allowing a rapist to walk free will just reinforce the idea that the U.S. military isn't serious about making sure victims are heard and justice is served.

Gavel on courtroom desk.

A former San Antonio Air Force sergeant who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for rape may be be set free thanks to a mistake made by the judge presiding over the case.

Former Air Force Sgt. Michael Silva was one of the 12 boot camp instructors who, in 2012, were convicted in sexual assault cases all stemming from their involvement with Lackland Air Force base's basic training program. At least 30 women reported cases of sexual misconduct then, with some saying they were assaulted and raped by their instructors.

Silva was personally found guilty of three rapes and sentenced to 20 years in jail. But during Silva's 2015 trial, the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals claims a judge made an error, and now they are overturning the 20-year sentence because of it.

During the trial, the military judge urged jurors to consider testimony from all witnesses, even non-victims, who were questioned during this particular trial so they could decide whether Silva had “a propensity to commit sexual assault.”

Silva had been charged with raping a 17-year-old Air Force trainee twice and his ex-wife once. But during the trial, jurors also heard from other women who Silva had consensual sex with who claimed he tried to choke them despite them telling him not to. That piece of evidence, the Air Force is now saying, wasn't meant to be taken into account.

As a result, the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals is saying the sentence must be overturned for allowing the judge to use testimony from non-victims.

Now, Silva may be allowed to walk free — unless the Air Force decides to try him once more. If this is the case, his victims would be forced to testify against him again, which might be traumatic for them.

Regardless of the reasoning behind this change, the Air Force must remember that allowing an alleged rapist to walk free will simply continue to show that within the U.S. military, rape victims are never able to get the justice they deserve.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Flickr user Helga Weber

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