Allegations against Air Force chief in Ohio include sexy text message exchanges, unwanted sex

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Four female airmen described their flirty relationships with a chief master sergeant Thursday, a day after another testified that she repeatedly told him "no" just before he had sex with her in his office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The Air Force hearing is looking into allegations that William Gurney, while he was the top-ranking enlisted man at the Air Force Materiel Command, sexually harassed nine female subordinates.

The women who took the stand Thursday said they flirted with the 27-year veteran through sexy text messages. Several witnesses have said Gurney sent nude and seminude images of himself and asked for revealing photos of female airmen.

But the most serious accusation so far came Wednesday when one of Gurney's female subordinates said he had sex with her against her will. She said she didn't fight back because she was stunned and feared his power and influence.

"I was just afraid. He's a powerful man," the female master sergeant testified.

Both the woman and Gurney are married.

Gurney's attorney said the woman only recently said she had sex against her will, after making earlier sworn statements that didn't mention that allegation. Maj. Gwendolyn Beitz, who is leading Gurney's defense, repeatedly asked the woman whether Gurney had used any threat, force or restraint as they had sex.

She responded that he hadn't. She said the encounter last year began when she stopped by his office at lunchtime and they began kissing, which they had also done in earlier meetings. He took off his shirt and began taking off her blouse, she said.

"I just kept telling him no," she said, then testified she wasn't sure how her clothes were removed or how she wound up having sex with Gurney against a table.

"I didn't want to have sex with him," the woman said. The Associated Press is not naming the woman.

Beitz said the woman never characterized the sex as unwanted until she faced telling her husband she could be demoted for having an extramarital affair.

Prosecutors said at the hearing's opening that they would present testimony about more allegations that could lead to new charges, including sexual assault. Allegations involving a 10th female airman were dropped before the hearing, without public explanation.

The hearing before a military judge in a base courtroom will help decide whether the charges will go forward. It's expected to last through Friday.

The charges being heard by Chief Regional Military Judge Col. Michael O'Sullivan include extramarital relations, inappropriate touching, sending sexually oriented text messages and trying to influence duty assignments. The judge will file a report on his findings and make a recommendation, expected to come in several weeks.

Gurney hasn't commented publicly on the charges.

He was assigned to a desk job last November. He could face court-martial proceedings, administrative punishment or see the charges dropped.

Gurney transferred to Wright-Patterson in 2008 from Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where he was command chief of the Ogden Air Logistics Center and 75th Air Base Wing.

Pentagon officials, under pressure from Congress, have taken steps in recent years such as increasing awareness and training to try to improve responses by the military services to sexual abuse.