An Air Force staff sergeant who pleaded guilty to rape charges will receive a new sentence, after a military appeals court decided there was not enough evidence to sustain the sexual assault conviction.
A three-judge panel of Air Force judges upheld other charges for Eddy Soto, a former trainer at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, but ruled that his original sentence of four years of confinement and a dishonorable discharge should be thrown out. A lower court will re-sentence Soto on charges of adultery, violating a lawful regulation and falsifying an official statement.
Soto admitted to having relationships with five women in 2011 but insisted that he was innocent of sexual assault.
Lackland Air Force Base was the site of widespread sexual misconduct scandals in the past several years, with more than 30 instructors convicted of preying on more than 60 victims. But despite outrage over sky-high rates of sexual assault in the military, rape convictions connected to the Lackland scandal were extremely rare.
President Obama has ordered military leaders to conduct a top-to-bottom review of sexual assault policies by December 1. Military statistics have shown a 50% increase in sexual assault reports in the 2013 fiscal year, but it is still not clear if that represented an increase in assaults or just a jump in reporting thanks to new laws governing the sexual assault investigation and prosecution process.
When the military last conducted a service-wide survey to gather data, it found that an estimated 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual conduct took place in one year, but only 3,300 reports were filed.