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Air Force colonel faces multiple charges, including raping sleeping woman

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft refuels after conducting airstrikes in Syria against ISIL in 2014. (DoD photo by Maj. Jefferson S. Heiland, U.S. Air National Guard/Released)

A Colorado-based Air Force fighter pilot is facing court-martial on sexual assault charges for incidents spanning from 2012 to 2014.

Col. Jason Costello, an F-22 Raptor pilot with North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, is charged with raping a sleeping woman while in Rhode Island in October and December 2014, according to Air Force documents.

He’s also charged with sexually groping women in several incidents in 2012 and 2014.

The identity of the woman or women has been redacted from the charge sheet provided by 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

Costello is also charged with hitting a person in the face in 2013 and “unlawfully” grabbing an individual’s arms and wrists in April 2017.

The charges were referred on March 29, and a trial date is tentatively set for October.

Reports of sexual assault in the military increased in 2017 over the previous year, according to Pentagon data released last month, with reports in the Marine Corps up by 15 percent, Navy and Air Force up 9 percent, and Army increasing by 8 percent.

Meanwhile, fewer servicemembers faced courts-martial for sexual assault in 2017 as commanders more often opted for punishment outside the court system, Pentagon data showed.

Costello remains on active-duty status pending court-martial but has been removed from operational duties, according to an emailed statement from Michael Kucharek, a spokesman for NORAD and U.S. Northern Command.

“As we do in all situations regarding adverse actions against any employee or service member, the command has taken appropriate actions while balancing the rights of the individual,” Kucharek said.

Costello has been assigned to the NORAD training and exercise directorate since July 2016 and “is currently working on projects as directed by his chain of command,” Kucharek said.

Costello is a 1995 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and attended pilot training at Reese Air Force Base, Texas, according to an Air Force article posted online in 2012 while he was a lieutenant colonel in command of the 325th Training Support Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. He also served at Kadena Air Base, Japan; Fort Carson, Colo.; Langley Air Force Base, Va.; and at the Pentagon.

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