Court dates set as Air Force general faces prosecution for sex assault

Maj. Gen. Phillip Stewart, the Air Force’s former pilot training boss, will be arraigned in military court Thursday on multiple charges, including two counts of sexual assault, ahead of a court-martial this summer, the service said Jan. 12.

Stewart’s court-martial is set to begin June 17. Legal proceedings will take place at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Stewart is the third general officer in the service’s history, and the second in two years, to face court-martial. He is accused of touching a woman’s genitals without her consent at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, in 2023, as well as trying to fly a plane within 12 hours of consuming alcohol.

His charges include two counts of sexual assault under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice; two counts of dereliction of duty under Article 92; one count of conduct unbecoming of an officer under Article 133; and one count of extramarital sexual conduct under Article 134.

Lt. Gen. Brian Robinson, head of Air Education and Training Command, approved the charges following a preliminary hearing in October. Robinson fired Stewart from his post last May amid an investigation into the two-star’s alleged misconduct.

Stewart had served as commander of 19th Air Force since August 2022, overseeing the service’s pilot training as well as 32,000 employees and more than 1,500 aircraft from JBSA-Randolph. He has since been assigned to a staff position at Air Education and Training Command’s San Antonio headquarters.

Stewart’s attorney, Jeffrey Addicott, a retired former Army lawyer who now leads the Warrior Defense Project at St. Mary’s University School of Law, told Air Force Times that the sexual encounter was consensual. Stewart plans to plead not guilty to all charges.

Addicott also claimed that the military judge who presided over the preliminary hearing recommended that the sexual assault charges be dropped, and that lesser offenses should have been handled administratively.

By moving forward with the charges, the government is violating “the spirit” of a change in how the military prosecutes some of the most serious criminal allegations, including sexual assault, by removing them from the chain of command in favor of special trial counsels, Addicott said.

Robinson opted to send the case to trial before the Pentagon’s new rules took effect Dec. 28. The Air Force has declined to respond to the claim that Robinson ignored the military judge’s advice.

Stewart may opt to face a jury of his peers — other general officers at his rank or higher — or be tried by a military judge alone.

A motions hearing in the case is also set for March 21.

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