The Air Force has demoted retired Air Force Gen. Arthur Lichte to the rank of major General after finding that he engaged in “inappropriate sexual acts” on several occasions with a lower-ranking female officer before retiring in 2010, the service announced Wednesday.
He was demoted following a probe by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations after the female officer alleged last summer that she was assaulted by Lichte twice in 2007 while he was holding the rank of lieutenant general as the service’s assistant vice chief of staff and Air Staff director at the Pentagon. The service found that he also engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship again in 2009 with the same female officer while he was the four-star commander of U.S. Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. The service did not substantiate the sexual assault allegations.
Lichte “did not commit a sexual assault and vehemently denies the unsworn allegations made against him,” Lichte’s attorney, Larry Youngner, said in a statement.
“General (Ret.) Arthur Lichte has continually asserted that he is deeply sorry for the pain he has caused his family, especially his strong and loving wife,” the statement said. “He is regretful of the decisions he made that allowed him to find himself in this predicament. My client and his family ask for privacy to work through this difficult time. We will continue to appeal the Air Force’s wrong decision concerning this unsworn accusation and the grade determination through the proper channels.”
In December, then-Air Force Secretary Deborah James issued Lichte a letter of reprimand after reviewing the results of the investigation.
“You are hereby reprimanded!”James wrote in the letter of Dec. 6, 2016. “Your conduct is disgraceful and, but for the statute of limitations bar to prosecution, would be more appropriately addressed through the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
James slammed Lichte for putting the female officer “in a position in which she could have believed that she had no choice but to engage in these sex acts given your far superior grade, position, and significant ability to affect her career.”
The heavily redacted 50 page report released by the Air Force said that the woman alleged that Lichte told the female officer, now a colonel, that if she told anyone what happened “he would deny it until the day he died.”
The decision to reduce Lichte in rank was made by acting Air Force secretary, Lisa Disbrow, on Tuesday. On Monday, Secretary Jim Mattis withdrew a Defense Department certification that Lichte had served satisfactorily as a four-star general. He was reduced in rank to a two-star general because that was the last time he had performed satisfactorily. He also was docked roughly $5,000 a month in retirement pay.
“The Air Force takes all allegations of inappropriate conduct very seriously,” Disbrow said in a statement Wednesday. “We expect our leaders to uphold the highest standards of behavior. These standards and rules underpin good order and discipline. Airmen at every level are held accountable.”