A two-star general who was relieved in May from command of the 19th Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio in Texas has had his charges of sexual assault, extramarital sexual conduct, dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming referred to a court-martial.
It marks the second time in history that a U.S. Air Force general officer has been formally charged with a sexual crime.
Maj. Gen. Phillip A. Stewart had an Article 32 hearing -- a preliminary hearing similar to a grand jury proceeding for civilians -- in October on whether there's probable cause that he violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Air Education and Training Command, or AETC, said Tuesday that all of the potential charges reviewed in that hearing will be heading to court-martial.
"Lt. Gen. Brian S. Robinson, commander of Air Education and Training Command and general court-martial convening authority, reviewed all evidence and the Article 32 preliminary hearing officer's report in deciding to refer all preferred charges to a court-martial," said Capt. Scarlett Trujillo, an AETC spokeswoman.
In May, Air Education and Training Command announced that Stewart was being removed from his role as commander of the 19th Air Force "due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead, related to alleged misconduct which is currently under investigation."
Stewart's lawyer, Jeffrey Addicott, a professor of law and director of the Warrior Defense Project at St. Mary's University School of Law, told Military.com that the judge for the Article 32 hearing had recommended that the sexual assault charge be dropped and the other charges not go to trial.
"They rendered a report saying that, in his opinion, he recommended to the convening authority that the more serious charges … not go forward at all, and that the other charges be disposed of administratively against Gen. Stewart," Addicott said in a phone interview Tuesday. "That was his recommendation. It wasn't followed. ... It's highly unusual that convening authorities do not follow what the Article 32 officer recommends."
Neither Addicott nor AETC made a copy of the Article 32 hearing report immediately available to Military.com.
A redacted charge sheet provided to Military.com in October by Air Education and Training Command outlines the alleged misconduct.
Under the dereliction of duty charge, Stewart is accused of failing to refrain from "pursuing an unprofessional relationship." Additionally, the charge sheet details that he also allegedly "failed to refrain from assuming control of an aircraft after consuming alcohol within 12 hours prior to takeoff."
Regarding the sexual assault charge, Stewart is alleged to have committed a sex act on a person at or near Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma "without her consent."
Stewart is also alleged to have committed conduct unbecoming an officer near Denver, Colorado, "while on official travel," where he allegedly wrongfully invited an individual to "spend the night alone with him in his private hotel room," the charge sheet adds.
Stewart also faces an extramarital sexual conduct charge.
The charge sheet redacts the names of those involved in the alleged incidents.
It's rare for general officers to face court-martial. The first Air Force general to face court-martial proceedings was Maj. Gen. Donald L. Kaufman in 1992 on allegations that he took war trophies from the Persian Gulf War and went on unnecessary temporary duty trips, Stars and Stripes reported. He was arraigned, but the case was dismissed and did not face a jury. Kaufman was demoted in rank to colonel through nonjudicial punishment and allowed to retire.
In 2022, Maj. Gen. William Cooley, formerly the head of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, was convicted of abusive sexual contact in a court-martial. He was the first-ever Air Force general to be convicted in a court-martial.
Military judge Col. Christina Jimenez sentenced Cooley to forfeit $10,910 of pay for five months and a letter of reprimand from the court-martial convening authority, then-Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Arnold Bunch. Cooley was not sentenced to jail.
Cooley faced a maximum sentence of seven years of confinement, separation and loss of pay and benefits. He retired as a colonel.
Stewart was commissioned in 1992 through the Reserve Officers' Training Corps after graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology, according to his official Air Force biography. He served as an instructor and evaluator pilot in multiple aircraft, and he holds the rating of command pilot with more than 2,600 flying hours. He also has 600 hours of combat time over 168 combat missions.
The 19th Air Force has more than 30,000 personnel and 1,530 aircraft assigned to 17 wings located across the country. In his role, Stewart was responsible for more than 45% of the Air Force's annual flying hour program, according to his biography.
Prior to his role with the 19th Air Force, he served as the deputy chief of staff for strategic employment at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Belgium.
Maj. Gen. Clark Quinn assumed command of the 19th Air Force on June 5, nearly a month after Stewart's firing.
A date for Stewart's court-martial had not been set as of Tuesday.
"Just as in civilian proceedings, the accused is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise by competent legal authority," Trujillo said in the statement.