Court-Martial Begins at Sheppard AFB for Accused Underwear Thief

Gavel at rest

Proceedings began Monday morning at Sheppard Air Force Base in a court-martial against Airman Basic Matthew Shillington, a Sheppard airman accused of keeping purloined women's underwear in his duffel bag.

Shillington is charged with two counts of abusive sexual contact, one count of assault and four counts of theft..

Prior to the actual start of the trial, defense counsel entered motions to suppress evidence and suppress a statement given by Shillington. They also asked for dismissal of some or all of the charges. By the end of proceedings Monday, the judge has not made a determination as to dismissal of any charges and had not taken any actions on motions made by the defense.

In response to the two motions to suppress brought up Monday, counsel representing the United States called two security forces officers who were on duty the night of the alleged incident, April 23.

TSgt. William Pleasants testified he and partner, SSgt. Johnathan Wilson, were called to assist two other officers at about 8 p.m., April 23, in response to a possible case of larceny. When they arrived at a Sheppard dormitory, they were told two male airmen claimed a third male airman had in his possession several pairs of female underwear. The two airmen claimed they spoke with two female airmen who said they were missing underwear.

Pleasants said they twice attempted to call Shillington's cell phone, but calls went directly to voice mail. He and Wilson then searched the base for close to two hours for Shillington and on the way back to the dorm they spotted a man who fit the description. Pleasants said he called out Shillington's name, and the man turned. They checked his ID card, which was a positive match to Shillington. Officers then asked him to get into the car and they escorted him back to the dorm. When he got out, Shillington said he was "armed." Officers frisked him and found a couple of knives on his waistband. He was then taken to an office in the dorm and read his rights. Officers said they asked for consent to search Shillington's room.

Shillington gave verbal consent, unlocked his room and unlocked his closet. The officers found a brown duffel bag that contained multiple pairs of female underwear.

The officers then patted down Shillington, handcuffed him, and took him to the security forces headquarters. SSgt. Ryan Albrighton, SAFB security forces, said he was also on duty the night in question and was present for portions of the investigation. He said when Shillington was brought back to the station, he appeared nervous, fidgety and was very talkative.

Sgt. Roseanne Dundon, defense paralegal, said she was in attendance for statements from both officers Wilson and Pleasants in November and December. She said statements made by the officers changed from their initial report in April when they were re-interviewed in November and then again in December.

In final statements about the two motions to suppress, defense said Shillington was a 19-year-old new airman fresh out of basic training who was unaware of his rights during an investigation. They claimed he possibly felt intimidated into giving consent to the search and making statements.

Counsel for the U.S. said as the son of a police officer, Shillington was well aware of what to expect during police proceedings and all statements and evidence were legally acquired.

Procedures continued through the afternoon with additional motions and witnesses. The case will continue Tuesday morning.

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