SAN ANTONIO — An Air Force general has dropped charges against a former training instructor who military prosecutors were preparing to re-try on rape accusations at a San Antonio base decades ago.
The decision ended a long legal battle for Master Sgt. Michael Silva, who was convicted in 2015 for raping two women at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. Silva was sentenced to 20 years in military prison, but he was released last year following an appeals court ruling.
Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle dismissed the case against Silva Monday because a recent appellate ruling changed the statute of limitations applying to his charges, and because an accuser did not want to participate in a retrial, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
The dismissal follows a larger 2011 investigation at the base involving 35 basic training instructors accused of assaults and harassment of nearly 70 recruits and technical training students.
About 30 trials were conducted over several years, but only two other sentences were as harsh as Silva's. One recruiter was sentenced to 27 years. Another basic training instructor was sentenced to 20 years, but died by suicide in prison.
The Air Force said it was not concerned Silva's case might discourage future victims from reporting abuse.
"Victims should feel confident that if they come forward, the government and Special Victims' Counsel will protect their rights," the statement said. "In addition, we actively encourage sexual assault survivors to report incidents as a way to access support and restorative care."
Don Christensen serves as president of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for military victims of assault and sexual assault. He called the ruling "unfortunate."
"My concern is that ... (Silva's supporters) will be saying all this proves he was innocent, proves he was railroaded," Christensen said. "No, all this proves is that he twice has benefited from (judges) changing their mind on the status of the law."