Two-star Air Force general found not guilty of sexual assault, guilty on other charges

Air Force Maj. Gen. Phillip Stewart was found not guilty of sexual assault, with a military jury of all-general officers acquitting him of the most serious charges in his court martial. The jury found Stewart guilty of two other charges, for which he was sentenced with base confinement and a $60,000 fine.

Stewart was sentenced to reprimand and restricted to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph for two months. He must also must forfeit $10,000 of his pay per month for a period of six months.

The court martial against Stewart was the second-ever court martial of a general officer in the Air Force’s history, and the first to go before a jury. Due to Stewart’s own rank, the jury was made up of officers who were three-star or higher generals, or two-stars with longer time in grade than Stewart. The panel of six men and two women began deliberating on June 28, delivering its verdict only one day later. 

Stewart was charged with several specifications, or counts, in the Uniform Code of Military Justice stemming from 2023 business trips during which he spent the night with a female subordinate. Stewart was relieved of command of the 19th Air Force, which oversees all pilot training, in May 2023, two months after the business trips.

He faced charges of sexual assault, conduct unbecoming of an officer, dereliction of duty for flying a training aircraft within a 12-hour window of drinking alcohol, adultery and an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate officer. Stewart pleaded guilty to the latter two this past week, after previously pleading not guilty to all the charges.

During the week-long trial, 12 witnesses testified including the victim, other airmen, family members and friends, along with experts in digital forensics.

The trial centered around the two counts of sexually assaulting his female subordinate which carried the highest sentence if convicted, as much as three decades per count. The jury found him guilty of the two other charges. For the charges he was convicted of, Stewart faced up to two and a half years in confinement.

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The charges stem from events in early 2023. Stewart was accused of nonconsensual sex in an Oklahoma hotel room on April 13 and 14, 2023 with a female subordinate while on a work trip to Altus Air Force Base. He was also accused of “assuming control” of an Air Force plane on April 14, 2023, less than 12 hours after drinking alcohol. 

The other charges, including the ones he pleaded guilty to earlier this week, stem from a period in March-May 2023 where he “failed to refrain from pursuing an unprofessional relationship,” according to court documents. The military jury found Stewart guilty of “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman” for inviting a female subordinate to spend the night with him at a hotel while on a work trip in Denver in March 2023. 

Update: 6/29/2024: This story has been updated with Stewart’s sentence.

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Nicholas Slayton

Contributing Editor

Nicholas Slayton is a Contributing Editor for Task & Purpose. In addition to covering breaking news, he writes about history, shipwrecks, and the military’s hunt for unidentified anomalous phenomenon (formerly known as UFOs). He currently runs the Task & Purpose West Coast Bureau from Los Angeles.

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