It’s no secret that sexual misconduct in the military has been heavily prosecuted in recent years. This case is no exception. In 2015, Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Silva was charged with raping two women and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. This case was also part of the scandal at Lackland AFB that has seen 35 basic training instructors investigated for misconduct with 68 recruits and technical training students since 2011.
In former Master Sgt. Silva’s case, Air Force investigations located two ex-wives and a recruit from over 20 years ago at Lackland. Last month, the US Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the rape convictions, and he is now eligible for release from Fort Leavenworth. He was reduced in rank to airman and given a dishonorable discharge.
The Push to Convict Service Members
This case is just one of several high-profile cases featured by the nonprofit group Save Our Heroes Project. This group argues that the military has wrongly convicted a number of troops in a Pentagon-directed campaign during the Obama administration to wipe out sexual misconduct.
The Breakdown of the Prosecution
In Airman Silva’s case, the appeals court expressed doubt about two of the accusers. The jury’s decision was based on an error by the court-martial judge and the fact that there was no corroborating physical evidence, and the convictions were based on the words of a long-ago recruit and an ex-wife who recanted her initial charge.
“The Prosecution presented no physical, scientific, or photographic evidence of any of the offenses. The Government offered no confessions or admissions to any of the offenses by Appellant, who did not testify. Specifically with regard to SCG, the Defense introduced medical records, called witnesses, and elicited direct and cross-examination testimony that suggested the window of opportunity for Appellant to have committed the two rapes was a narrow one, and tended to cast doubt on her account in other ways.”
There were a number of problems with the prosecution, including that the accuser had described wearing a uniform that new recruits did not wear at the time, and her barracks had 24-hour security that would have made it very difficult for Silva to take her away for two successive nights.
The Air Force has 120 days to decide whether to continue the case, and supporters are hoping Airman Silva is released within a few weeks.
This case is an example of an excellent defense that successfully represented a service member in their time of need. Airman Silva’s defense team did an excellent job of providing the best possible defense. If you or someone you know could benefit from a military law lawyer, contact Military Trial Defenders today.