The Air Force has dropped a criminal indecency charge filed against a female airman who refused to testify against another airman she had accused of rape, her lawyer said Friday.
The commander of the 43rd Airlift Wing at Pope Air Force Base decided this week to drop the indecency charge, which alleged sex in the presence of others, said Capt. Chris Eason, an attorney for Airman 1st Class Cassandra Hernandez.
Hernandez’s attorneys have said they believed the charge was filed in retaliation for her refusal to testify.
The 20-year-old had been scheduled for a Sept. 24 court-martial and could have faced up to a year in prison. Instead, Hernandez pleaded guilty to underage drinking and received a nonjudicial punishment, Eason said.
“I’m just glad to have my life back,” Hernandez said in a statement released by her lawyers. “Overall, I’m still disappointed in how this was handled, but if they recognize the things they did wrong and can fix them for future victims, then it was all worth it.”
In May 2006, Hernandez reported she had been raped by three airmen during an alcohol-fueled barracks gathering. One of the airmen was charged with rape. But after initially helping prosecutors, Hernandez declined to cooperate further.
Hernandez has said she felt she wasn’t protected and was “being hung out to dry.”
Three male airmen she accused of rape received nonjudicial punishment for indecent acts, and were granted immunity to testify at Hernandez’s trial, according to Air Force legal documents.
Hernandez was initially offered the same nonjudicial punishment, which Eason said she rejected. Eason said the agreement to drop the criminal charge was reached after negotiations with prosecutors and approved by Col. Timothy Zadalis, commander of the 43rd Airlift Wing.
Capt. Beverly Mock, a wing spokeswoman, said Friday she couldn’t discuss details of the case because of privacy laws. Messages left for the prosecutors who handled the case and Zadalis were not immediately returned.
The Associated Press normally does not identify people alleging sexual assault, but Hernandez has gone public with her story and has spoken to news media.
Capt. Omar Ashmawy, another Hernandez attorney, said she is receiving support from the Air Force “as a result of the real psychological and physical trauma suffered from this sexual assault.”