Witness describes alleged financial misdeeds of Air Force officer charged with rape

Eds: Will be led.

AP Photo DN102

By ANGELA K. BROWN

Associated Press Writer

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (AP) -- An Air Force training unit commander used his government travel card to pay for his children's school lunches, buy airline tickets for relatives, eat at restaurants and pay a utility bill, a witness testified Tuesday during a military hearing.

The hearing, similar to civilian grand jury proceedings, will determine if there is enough evidence for Col. Samuel Lofton III to face a court-martial on numerous charges, including financial wrongdoing and rape. If Lofton is convicted, he faces up to life in a military prison.

Lofton's attorneys declined to comment after the first day of the hearing on Monday at Sheppard Air Force Base.

A financial service officer, 1st Lt. Clint Cooper, testified Tuesday he didn't have a total for expenses on the travel card, but military documents indicate at least $10,000, including pay for unauthorized trips and reimbursement for trips Lofton never took.

In testimony Monday, a civilian worker testified Lofton raped and twice assaulted her while they were alone in a building at night on the air base. She said he forcibly kissed her and put her hand on his genitals and another time raped her. However, she said she sometimes saw Lofton afterward and that their interactions were pleasant and professional.

The Associated Press does not normally identify alleged victims of sex crimes.

A second woman, a civilian not supervised by Lofton, testified that he forcibly kissed her and put her hand on his genitals in separate incidents in 2006. She said she told him to stop both times, and that she told a superior but nothing was done.

Lofton is charged with rape, being absent without leave, 20 counts of larceny, four counts of indecent assault, two counts of dereliction of duty and two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

Lofton, in the military since 1981, was commander for about three years at Sheppard's 82nd Training Group, which has about 2,100 students on base at a time.

A Pentagon report issued last year said reports of sexual assaults in the military increased by about 24 percent in 2006.

Air Force teams found that many rapes were not reported because victims feared they would be disciplined, and that response programs for victims were inadequate.

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On the Net:

Sheppard AFB: http://www.sheppard.af.mil/