Air Force Colonel Acquitted of Rape, Found Guilty of Indecent Assault at Texas Base

As the verdicts were read, a woman who had accused Col. Samuel Lofton of rape darted from the courtroom.

A military jury acquitted the Air Force colonel of rape on Wednesday, but the panel of seven men and two women found him guilty of two counts of indecent assault in cases involving two other women at Sheppard Air Force Base.

Lofton, the former 82nd Training Group commander at the base, also was convicted of two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman for calling a high-ranking enlisted member at her home and for making sexually suggestive comments to her at work.

He faces a maximum prison sentence of five years on each indecent assault count and one year on each conduct unbecoming count. The court could also decide that no punishment is warranted.

Lofton could have been sentenced to life in prison had he been convicted of rape. Jurors in the court-martial deliberated nearly five hours. Their verdict did not have to be unanimous; two-thirds had to agree.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment after the verdict.

Lofton pleaded guilty last week to 17 counts of larceny, being absent without leave nearly a dozen times and two counts of dereliction of duty. The charges could bring an end to his 27-year military career as well as more than 100 years in prison.

Sentencing for all charges was set for Thursday.

Lofton was removed from his post about a year ago as he was being investigated for misusing his government travel card.

Two civilian workers testified that he forcibly kissed them and placed their hands on his genitals. One woman said she was assaulted twice in the fall of 2006, the other twice in the spring of 2007. Neither worked for Lofton but all worked in the same building.

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

Lofton didn't testify at his court-martial.

During closing arguments Wednesday, lead defense attorney Maj. Mark Etheridge said the accuser's account of the rape was "ridiculous." The woman had testified that after the attack Lofton asked to keep her pantyhose as a souvenir and that she threw them at him after wiping herself.

"They are the piece of evidence that could corroborate her account and she throws it at him? Are you kidding me?" Etheridge said.

He also reminded jurors about several flirtatious work e-mails she sent to Lofton after the alleged incidents, even after he was removed from his post. An e-mail sent the day after the alleged rape says, "I would be foolish to say I'm not interested in a promotion."

But the military prosecutor, Capt. Brett Landry, told jurors that the woman remained on friendly terms with Lofton because she was afraid of losing her job. He said all of the accusers were credible.

"There is no motivation for these two women to have made up these incidents," Landry said. "There is no overarching conspiracy ... to ruin his life by putting him through this."