The federal government has agreed to pay a retired Army colonel $975,000 to settle a lawsuit she filed in 2019 that accused John E. Hyten, an Air Force general who later became vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of sexual assault, according to a court filing. records

The retired colonel, Kathryn A. Spletstoser, accused General Hyten of unwanted sexual advances and touching since 2017, when he was her boss and the commander of the US Strategic Command, responsible for overseeing the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Col. Spletstoser reported the allegations to military investigators in April 2019 after President Donald J. Trump appointed Gen. Hyten as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s No. 2 military officer, helping to oversee the 1.2 million active-duty U.S. troops. at home and deployed around the world, according to her lawsuit.

General Hyten strongly denied the allegations, and an Air Force official charged with investigating Colonel Spletstoser’s complaint refused in June 2019 to refer him to a court-martial. But Colonel Spletstoser spoke publicly about the allegations the following month, telling The New York Times that she had a “moral responsibility to come forward” as the Senate considered her nomination.

In her trial, Colonel Spletstoser said that once in 2017, General Hyten grabbed her hand and placed it on her crotch so she could feel his erect penis. On another occasion, she said, he pulled her to him and kissed her on the lips while pressing himself against her, then ejaculated, getting sperm all over his sweatpants and her yoga pants.

Advocates for sexual assault victims said the allegations highlighted how, even after years of public criticism of how the Defense Department handles sexual assault cases, the agency still got it wrong.

Others rallied to support the nomination.

Speaking at General Hyten’s confirmation hearing in July 2019, Heather A. Wilson, a former Air Force secretary, said she directed a thorough investigation into the allegations and concluded that the general “was falsely accused.” She praised General Hyten’s credibility and experience.

In September 2019, the Senate voted, 75 to 22, to confirm the appointment of General Hyten. Colonel Spletstoser retired the following month after a 30-year career in the army. General Hyten retired in 2021 after 40 years in the military.

Both parties agreed this week to the $975,000 settlement to settle the lawsuit Colonel Spletstoser filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, court documents show.

The settlement stipulates that it is “in no way intended to be, and should not be construed as, an admission of liability or guilt on the part of the United States, its agencies, officers, employees, agents and servants.”

A spokesman for the Justice Department, which represented General Hyten, declined to comment on the settlement.

Colonel Spletstoser indicated that she hoped the payment would encourage other members of the military who have experienced sexual assault within its ranks.

“It is my sincere hope that the successful outcome in my case will encourage other survivors of military sexual violence to come forward – no matter how high-ranking the perpetrator,” she said in a statement released by her attorney, Ariel E. Solomon.

Ms Solomon said she was not aware of another settlement the federal government had agreed to pay in a case involving allegations of sexual assault by one member of the military against another.

She said the vast majority of such cases are dismissed because of a 1950 Supreme Court ruling ruling this established what became known as the Feres doctrine, which holds that the government is not liable for injuries sustained by military members on active duty.

She urged Congress to enact legislation that would create an exception to the doctrine and make it clear that sexual assault is never acceptable in the military.

“This win is an important step in the right direction,” Ms Solomon said. “However, to obtain justice for countless other survivors of military sexual trauma, Congress must act.”

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