Newly released documents detail how the military investigated allegations of sexual assault brought against the Air Force four-star who's slated to become the Pentagon's next No. 2 general.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations on Friday released a heavily redacted, 59-page report into unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault brought by Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser against Gen. John Hyten, who's been nominated to become the next Joint Chiefs vice chairman.
As stated by the U.S. Air Force in recent weeks, the report shows that investigators were unable to corroborate an unprofessional relationship when Spletstoser worked for Hyten, who is currently the head of U.S. Strategic Command. The two traveled together frequently and communicated, often electronically, when Spletstoser worked for Hyten as director of his Commander's Action Group, an advisory position.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations conducted more than 50 interviews with witnesses across 13 states between April and June, after Spletstoser came forward detailing her account of alleged repeated assaults.
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Some of the details of the alleged events, which she told investigators took place between February 2017 and 2018, have been detailed in media reports. Spletstoser has also spoken about the alleged incidents publicly in recent weeks.
Hyten's nomination to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs is still awaiting a full Senate vote. The Senate Armed Services Committee advanced his nomination in a 20-7 vote last month after a tense hearing, during which Spletstoser was present in the gallery.
Spletstoser told Air Force Times in an interview Friday she found the Air Force's report to be a "highly redacted version, and it's absolutely not complete."
The report is "a snapshot that's clearly incomplete," Spletstoser told Air Force Times." OSI investigations don't make characterizations, so this notion that he was cleared is blatantly false. ... The American people and everybody needs to see the facts of the case," she said.
Spletstoser, who has served in the Army for 28 years, alleges the first incident happened during a trip to Palo Alto, California, in February 2017. She told investigators that Hyten was in her hotel room reviewing staff work when the general allegedly grabbed her hand and positioned it on his groin. Spletstoser reported that, following that incident, more unwanted kissing and touching occurred on separate temporary duty trips.
The alleged events followed a similar pattern, according to the report, with Spletstoser claiming the inappropriate conduct took place as the two went over work in a hotel room.
Spletstoser told investigators that, on one occasion, Hyten put his arm around her shoulder and touched her breasts, the report summary states.
Then, during the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, in December 2017, Spletstoser says Hyten knocked on her hotel room door. When she answered, he "entered uninvited," she claimed, according to the report.
While in the room, Spletstoser claims, Hyten pulled her in, "began kissing her on the lips and holding her tight while he pressed his body up against hers. After approximately one minute, [Hyten] ejaculated in his gym shorts," she alleges.
Hyten, the report adds, later took a polygraph to dispute the allegations. But the general became "frustrated" that his results were found "inconclusive," according to the investigation.
Hyten has maintained that Spletstoser is lying, and that the events never happened.
"Nothing happened, ever" in his contacts with Spletstoser, he said in his July 30 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Ultimately, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations did not substantiate Spletstoser's claims and was "unable to identify anyone who witnessed [Hyten] act unprofessionally with [Spletstoser]," according to the report.
The findings were passed to the court-martial convening authority, Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, who did not pursue administrative or disciplinary action, ruling there was no evidence to refer charges.
Allegations of Toxic Leadership
In the midst of the accusations, STRATCOM conducted its own investigation into allegations from Spletstoser's subordinates that she was creating a hostile work environment.
In a separate internal STRATCOM report released Friday, Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Bowen, the investigating officer, found evidence that Spletstoser "has bullied some of her subordinates" and that her leadership style "met the definition of 'toxic.'"
The 230-page report was dated Feb, 9, 2018. Bowen interviewed dozens of her subordinates.
There was a second Army-officer led investigation into Spletstoser's leadership style, according to The Washington Post, which also questioned her behavior.
In one sworn statement, an unidentified witness cited in Bowen's report claimed that Spletstoser would routinely brag about how she had manipulated Hyten.
"She frequently boasts about how she's able to manipulate General Hyten's decision-making process, and makes comments about she's got General Hyten 'trained,'" the witness said in a written affidavit.
Spletstoser did not mention any alleged mistreatment from Hyten in her interviews with Bowen, even though the investigation coincided with the alleged sexual misconduct. The colonel told Air Force investigators she never intended to speak out against her former boss until it was announced that he’d been nominated to serve as the Joint Chiefs’ vice chairman.
Spletstoser maintained that there was a toxic leadership problem in the command prior to her taking her position there, and said she had been trying to "fix" the issues, the report states.
She admitted to "cussing" in front of people and "dropping f-bombs," but never in a way that meant to hurt or insult her subordinates, according to the report.
"I would never want to hurt somebody on purpose," Spletstoser told investigators.
During his confirmation hearing, Hyten said he had been slow to recognize that Spletstoser was abusing subordinates. He said he "only counseled her verbally about her language.”
“I thought the issue was rough edges around an Army officer," he added.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told Hyten that his failure to deal with Spletstoser's leadership shortcomings until others in his command brought them to his attention "left me with concerns about your judgment."
"You could not bring yourself to recognize toxic leadership in your command," Ernst said.
Another senator, Arizona Republican Martha McSally, who recently acknowledged that she was a rape victim during her 26-year Air Force career, said while she knows sexual assault happens in the military, she doesn’t believe it happened in this case.
"The truth is that General Hyten is innocent of these charges," she said. "I pray the accuser gets the help she needs."