Air Force instructor gets 4 years for raping trainee

In this June 22, 2012 image made from video, female airmen march during graduation at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. A widening sex scandal has rocked Lackland, one of the nation's busiest military training centers, where four male instructors are charged with having sex with, and in one case raping, female trainees.
AP Photo/John L. Mone

SAN ANTONIO A military judge has sentenced an Air Force instructor to four years in prison for raping a female trainee at the South Texas base where he worked.

Lt. Col. Matthew Van Dalen also sentenced Staff Sgt. Eddy Soto to a dishonorable discharge after convicting him of rape Saturday during a military trial at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

More than 30 Lackland instructors have been investigated in the military sex scandal. Soto was the ninth trainer convicted in the scandal and sentenced to prison or hard labor. A total of 62 female trainees came forward alleging they were sexually assaulted or harassed by their training instructors.

Van Dalen acquitted Soto on charges of aggravated sexual assault and wrongful sexual contact.

Soto previously pleaded guilty to five counts, including having had sex with a female trainee and with the wife of a male trainee.

The scandal at Lackland began to unfold nearly two years ago, when the first victim came forward. The base has about 500 military training instructors for about 35,000 airmen who graduate every year. While one in five recruits are women, most instructors are men.

The Air Force recently announced that there were a total of 796 reports of cases ranging from inappropriate touching to rape in 2012, a nearly 30 percent increase from 2011.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh called the numbers "appalling" and estimated the number could be even greater because many cases aren't reported at all.