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Archive for Monday, March 29, 2004

Cadet stayed on despite multiple allegations

March 29, 2004

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— An Air Force Academy cadet who had been accused of rape and threatened to crash a glider into a dining hall was allowed to remain at the school for several more months, during which he was arrested for sodomizing a woman in a wheelchair and accused of raping another cadet, according to files obtained by The Associated Press.

Even after his arrest in Los Angeles for sodomy, the Air Force got cadet Doncosta Seawell released from custody and took him back to the academy, according to the files. He was accused of rape by a fellow cadet three months later.

"This is outrageous that this guy fell through the cracks of the military justice system and went on to do such harm to other victims," said Cynthia Stone of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Seawell's alleged victims have been among the women who have accused the academy of failing to prosecute sex offenders, claims that helped lead to sweeping changes at the academy and Defense Department investigations of sexual assault cases.

An investigation determined that there had been 142 reports of sexual assault at the academy in the past decade, and some of the victims said they were punished for reporting the assaults.

Seawell, a senior cadet flight instructor and academy boxer, was expelled in October 2002, and a court-martial sentenced him to two years of imprisonment for the attack on the civilian woman.

First assault claim

But he first came to the attention of academy investigators two years earlier, when cadet MacKenzie Isackson said he sexually assaulted her. He denied assaulting the woman, and no charges were brought.

The following year, just a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Seawell threatened to fly a glider into the building that houses the dining hall, according to the Office of Special Investigations report obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information request.

He was charged with Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Gentleman and sent for a mental evaluation, according to the files.

L.A. arrest

Two months later, on Dec. 28, 2001, he was arrested in Los Angeles for the attack on a woman in a wheelchair, whom he allegedly approached via Internet instant messaging.

It was then that Air Force agents reviewed Seawell's record and found the report of the glider threat, according to the OSI report.

But Seawell remained at the school for six more months and allegedly approached freshman cadet Kira Mountjoy-Pepka by way of Internet chat.

Mountjoy-Pepka accused Seawell of attacking her in April 2002. In interviews last year on ABC's "20/20" and on Oprah Winfrey's show, Mountjoy-Pepka claimed she was scolded by academy officials for being a "slut."

No charges were filed in her case.

Academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker said privacy rules, as well as the presumption of innocence, might have played a role in Seawell's continued presence at the school.

"We'd have to review the records to see what caused this," he said.

Seawell, meanwhile, is back in the brig on the sodomy charge. He had been released on probation but was jailed again after being arrested for soliciting sex over the Internet from an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old.

The OSI files say that Mountjoy-Pepka visited Seawell three times after the alleged rape, and that there was some sexual activity. Legal analysts said this would have weakened any attempt to prosecute Seawell.

Mountjoy-Pepka said Seawell, who had a gun despite academy rules prohibiting possession of personal weapons, had threatened to kill her.

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