A former leader of the Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base was docked two ranks by the Air Force and lost $60,000 per year in pension payments after he was found to have coerced sex with a subordinate officer, according to USA Today.
Retired Gen. Arthur Lichte, who led the Air Mobility Command from 2007-09, will be demoted from a four-star general to major general and have his pension cut from $216,000 annually to $156,000, the paper reported. A USA Today investigation found that Lichte had sex with the officer three times and told her he would “deny it until the day he died.” The alleged incidents took place while he was at Scott.
USA Today said Lichte received a letter of reprimand from then-Air Force secretary Deborah James in December. James wrote that Lichte put the officer “in a position in which she could have believed that she had no choice but to engage in these sex acts given your far superior grade, position and significant ability to affect her career.”
James wanted Lichte to be court-martialed, USA Today reported, but the statute of limitations had run out. He retired in 2010, but the Air Force didn’t open its investigation until 2016 after it received a complaint from the officer.
“Your conduct is disgraceful and, but for the statute of limitations bar to prosecution, would be more appropriately addressed through the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” James wrote.
Lichte’s lawyer said he would appeal the decision.
“My client did not commit a sexual assault and vehemently denies the unsworn allegations made against him regarding consensual events that happened over eight years ago,” Larry Youngner said in a statement to USA Today. Lichte regrets his actions, is sorry for the pain he has caused his family and asked for privacy, Youngner said.
USA Today received a redacted 50-page report by the inspector general on Lichte’s case. Lichte believed their encounters were consensual, but the woman, now a colonel, told investigators that she felt coerced. The report said there were two incidents in 2007 and one in 2009.
USA Today reported that Lichte said “he was surprised because it took two to tango and he thought for sure VICTIM (was) interested in (him), just as he was interested in her. And of course, on most of these occasions it happened when alcohol was involved,” according to the report.
Don Christensen, a retired Air Force colonel and the organization’s former top prosecutor, told USA Today that Lichte’s punishment was likely the harshest the Air Force can administer.
“The only question is, ‘How much rank do you take?’” Christensen said to USA Today. “Under these circumstances, this is probably the appropriate response. They have a problem when it comes to holding general officers accountable. They’ve never court-martialed a general officer.”
Lichte was assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force and director of the Air Force staff at the Pentagon before becoming AMC commander, according to his Air Force biography.