Witness testimony begins in Air Force recruiter's Article 32 hearing
Air Force Tech Sgt. Jaime Rodriguez accused of rape, unprofessional relationships with recruits
Witnesses have begun testifying against Tech Sgt. Jaime Rodriguez, a former Houston-area recruiter for the U. S. Air Force accused of rape and conducting unprofessional relationships with applicants.
Testimony in the Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing, got underway Tuesday morning in a courtroom at Lackland Air Force.
However, the hearing soon relocated to a nearby conference room to allow the first witness to testify by video conference.
The woman, who is in Illinois and not able to attend the hearing in person, was one of 11 witnesses scheduled to testify against Rodriguez.
Under direct questioning, she said she first spoke with Rodriguez in September 2011 when she was 17 years old and a senior in high school.
The woman said although she had spoken with a different recruiter in person a few months prior, Rodriguez suddenly began to call her, at first asking basic screening questions.
The witness testified that after about a week, the questions took on a more personal nature and eventually turned sexual.
She said Rodriguez began repeatedly contacting her by text messages and Yahoo instant messenger, talking of having sex with her and asking her to send him nude pictures.
The woman said Rodriguez also sent her pictures of himself. She said her mother later found nude pictures of Rodriguez in the witness’s email account.
In explaining why she did not terminate her communication with Rodriguez, the witness testified that she felt “blackmailed.”
She said Rodriguez had made threats that they would “both get in trouble” if she told anyone, and she felt that it would ruin her chances of being admitted into the Air Force.
The witness said she never met with Rodriguez in person.
However, he does face charges stemming from other women’s claims that include rape, aggravated sexual contact and adultery. A recruiter assistant is among the other accusers.
According to a statement from the U. S. Air Force, Rodriguez was immediately removed from recruiting duty when the allegations surfaced and has not had any further contact with recruits or applicants.
The Article 32 hearing is expected to last two days.
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