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Ret. Army colonel gets historic sexual assault settlement

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers' boots. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
July 26, 2023

A retired U.S. Army colonel will receive a $975,000 settlement from the government for a sexual assault lawsuit against former Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman and Air Force Gen. John Hyten.

According to The Associated Press, the settlement, which was finalized in U.S. District Court in California earlier this month, brings a conclusion to over four years of investigations and congressional reviews of former Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser’s lawsuit against Hyten.

Speaking about the final outcome of her case, Spletstoser said, “It is my sincere hope that the successful outcome in my case will embolden other survivors of military sexual violence to come forward — no matter how high ranking the perpetrator.”

Spletstoser filed the lawsuit against Hyten after serving as his aide in 2017. While serving as Hyten’s aide, Spletstoser claimed the Air Force general engaged in multiple unwanted sexual advances, such as hugging, kissing, and rubbing up against Spletstoser. During an interview in 2019 with The Associated Press, Spletstoser accused Hyten of attempting to destroy her career in the military after she repeatedly pushed the general away.

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According to The Military Times, Hyten denied Spletstoser’s allegations during a 2019 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, claiming, “That never happened.” While Hyten’s 2019 nomination by former President Donald Trump for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was delayed by the allegations, the Senate ultimately confirmed Hyten with a vote of 75-22.

At the time of Hyten’s confirmation, the U.S. Air Force’s investigation determined that there was not enough evidence to discipline Hyten; however, according to The Associated Press, a senior Air Force official claimed that the investigation also did not find evidence suggesting that Spletstoser had lied about the accusations.

While it is not unusual for the U.S. government to handle various lawsuits with large financial settlements, the Associated Press noted that a settlement regarding a sexual assault case against a high ranking officer in the U.S. military is very uncommon.

After news of the government’s settlement was announced, Ariel Solomon, Spletstoser’s attorney, released a statement explaining that her client’s settlement “stands out as the only known settlement paid by the government for a sexual assault case brought against a member of the United States military.”