The United States Air Force has refused to press charges against a senior military doctor who has been accused of sexually abusing two 6-year-old boys, according to USA Today.
On June 15, Major General James Jacobson, the two-star general, appointed to review the case, determined there was not enough evidence to press criminal charges against Col. Eric Holt. However, Air Force attorney representing the boys argued the evidence, including photographs and expert psychologists’ testimony, is more than enough to convict Holt.
Holt, a battlefield doctor, was accompanying U.S. Marine commandos in Afghanistan on a night-time raid when an improvised bombing device exploded near the Humvee he was riding in. The blast threw him 35 yards away and he suffered severe injuries to his face, spine and skull. After years of treatment, he recovered and went back to his fieldwork.
However, in October 2016, allegations of physical and sexual abuse against elementary-school children, including sodomy, cuts and black eyes, rose against the colonel.
On Oct. 13, a 6-year-old boy reportedly soiled himself in the middle of the night after he returned from a visit with Holt. As his mother washed him, the little boy tearfully said Holt “pulls on his penis and puts his fingers in his bottom.”
A video of a distraught boy shows him sitting on a bed, crying, “I need somebody to take care of me. Because if nobody takes care of me, my bottom will hurt.”
Captain Lauren Kerby, one of the boy’s attorneys, said it’s clear something happened to the boys. The memo also alleged a photo of the child’s bruised penis and a statement from one of the women who heard the boy’s testimony were left out of the investigative report by the Air Force.
The memo also described other physical abuses on the two boys including facial bruising, black eyes and cuts at the hands of Holt. It also cites opinion of a licensed psychologist who said the boys were credible.
However, Jacobson said the statements from one of the boys’ mother were not credible and cited them as reason to not press charges against Holt.
The children’s lawyer believes the staunch advocacy of the child’s mother may have rubbed officials the wrong way. However, they urged Jacobson to set aside the statements and to rely solely on the evidence presented.
"Whether or not she is credible, you have photos of injuries, statements by the boys, and an expert's opinion that (their) disclosures are credible," they wrote. "These are the facts you need to prefer charges in this case."
Yet, officials still maintain they have carefully evaluated evidence from multiple sources, including one from Maryland officials, before they delivered the verdict.
"These are very serious allegations and we took numerous steps to thoroughly investigate and protect the welfare of these children,” Lt. Col. Brus Vidal, an Air Force spokesman, said in a statement. “In this case, the Air Force investigated the allegations, reviewed evidence and assessments from Maryland law enforcement and child service agencies and then determined there was not sufficient evidence to support the allegations.”
A decision could have sent Holt to court-martial but for now, the case is closed.
Members of the Congress are pushing Air Force to launch a new investigation into the abuse incidents.
“These are extremely serious allegations, and there is no excuse not to fully investigate what happened," said Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement. “I urge the Air Force to take this case seriously and to protect this family. It is not too late to have people with the proper level of expertise and understanding of complex crimes looking at the facts – as my colleagues and I requested previously.”
Don Christensen a former prosecutor for the Air Force said the photos and video should have been enough to level charges and a hearing against Holt.
“The children are clearly being abused and the Air Force doesn’t seem to have an interest in finding out who is doing it,” Christensen said. “The clear indication that his chain of command has made up their mind that they believe him and and that's clouding their judgment. He's an officer, injured in combat. Sometimes too much deference is given to those things.”
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