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During the trial at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Technical Sergeant Anthony Lizana was reduced in rank to Airman First Class and dishonorably discharged.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, the jury could have sentenced Lizana to nearly 38 years in prison for his conviction on four charges with specifications including dereliction, adultery, assault consummated by battery and sexual assault. The jury was made up of two officers and five senior noncommissioned officers.
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The San Antonio Express-News also reported that Lizana asked for leniency and told jurors, “The person I was 16 months ago is not the person who stands before you today.”
Retired Colonel Don Christensen, president of the not-for-profit organization Protect our Defenders, believes the sentence is very light, especially the confinement.
“He was convicted of sexually assaulting a subordinate. And considering how much of an issue sexual assault is in the military, to have a superior sexually assault a subordinate and only get three months confinement I think is exceptionally light,” said Christensen.
“This is the type of sentence we would typically see for an 18-to-20-year-old airman who abused cough medicine,” Christensen added.
Christensen estimates that Lizana will serve only about 2 months for good behavior. In addition, the dishonorable discharge will have to go through a lengthy appeals process that could take anywhere from one to three years.
Christensen, who served as the chief prosecutor for the U.S. Air Force from 2010 to 2014, also explained the hard labor process. He said Lizana will likely perform his normal duties under his commander. When he’s done performing his normal duties for the day, he’ll do an additional four hours of work. Lizana will also likely have to come in on Saturdays for eight hours and Sundays for four hours. The extra tasks could include painting or pulling weeds.
“In a word, it’s a joke,” Christensen said of the hard labor punishment.
So why was the punishment so light? According to Christensen, the sentencing in the military is “totally messed up.” Christensen said there’s very little guidance to jurors on how to sentence, which he believes is one of the reasons there’s so much disparity in sentencing.
Christensen also said it can be difficult for jurors to give a harsh punishment to someone who's just asked for mercy. He said this is one of the reasons judges should sentence the convicted.
Not everyone agrees with Christensen, the Express-News reports. Tom Fleener, Lizana’s civilian attorney, said a dishonorable discharge “has a lasting effect forever” and was punishment enough for his client.
Lackland Air Force Base was the center of a sexual assault scandal in 2012 when at least 31 female trainees were identified as victims of 12 instructors. Those 12 instructors were investigated for misconduct; six of them faced charges from rape to adultery.
Five former commanders were disciplined for not reporting the problems quickly enough, and a group commander and squadron commander in charge of many of the accused were removed.
New airmen report for eight weeks of basic training at Lackland. The base has five training groups for basic training, technical training and international training. The base expects to graduate 39,000 airmen from basic training and 45,000 from technical training this year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.