Jury deliberating charges for two star Air Force general on trial

The jury is deliberating charges of sexual assault and dereliction of duty for an Air Force two-star general, just the second general officer to face a court-martial in the service’s history and the first to take his case to a jury.

The jurors in the trial began deliberating the case Friday afternoon, according to local media. All of the jurors who have sat this week for Maj. Gen. Phillip Stewart’s court martial in a military courtroom in San Antonio are either 3-star generals or above, or 2-stars with more time in grade than Stewart. UCMJ rules require that court martial be heard by a jury whose members outrank the accused.

Those rules allow for a conviction if six of the eight members of the jury find Stewart guilty. If convicted, Stewart could spend 30 years in prison.

Stewart faces charges stemming from a TDY trip with a junior female officer in 2023. According to charging documents, the alleged assaults occurred in an Oklahoma hotel room on April 13 and 14, 2023 while the two visiting Altus Air Force Base. The junior officer testified this week that while staying overnight on a business trip, she felt forced to have sex with Stewart in his hotel room because of his rank. Stewart has maintained that the sex was consensual.

Since being relieved of command of the 19th Air Force in May 2023, Stewart has been charged and pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault, dereliction of duty for flying a training aircraft within 12 hours of drinking alcoholic beverages and conduct unbecoming an officer in the case. Earlier this week, Stewart pleaded guilty to lesser charges which included an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate officer and adultery.

Documents from the case also allege that Stewart “failed to refrain from pursuing an unprofessional relationship” between March and May and invited a companion “to spend the night alone with him in his private hotel room” during a second business trip to Denver in March.

For the charges Stewart pleaded guilty to, he faces a maximum potential punishment if a reprimand, dismissal, 18 months confinement, and forfeiture of pay. There is also a possibility for a fine, officials said.

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Stewart is the general officer in Air Force history to face a court martial. Maj. Gen. William Cooley was found guilty of sexual assault in 2022. Cooley was sentenced three days after the judge’s verdict to a reprimand and forfeiture of roughly $55,000. 

Stewart was relieved in May 2023 as the head of the 19th Air Force, which oversees all of the service’s pilot training at Joint Base San Antionio-Randolph. The command responsibilities include training aircrews, remotely piloted aircraft crews, air battle managers, weapons directors, Air Force Academy Airmanship programs, and survival, escape, resistance, and evasion specialists. The command is made up of over 32,000 personnel which operate more than 1,350 aircraft of 29 different models. 

He served three times as a wing commander and twice commanded in combat – first as commander of the 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at Balad Air Base, Iraq, and as Commanding General of NATO Train Advise Assist Command-Air in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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